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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Whenever Walpole and Norwood get together on the baseball diamond, it is due to be a heated and entertaining match, given the fierce rivalry these two Bay State Conference powers share. On Thursday, the No. 6 seed Rebels (13-7) hosted the No. 11 seed Mustangs (11-9) in the first round of the Division I South Sectionals. Behind a six-inning shutout performance by staff ace and senior captain Brian Gaughan, Walpole cruised to a 15-0 victory and earned themselves a second-round date with Bridgewater-Raynham.
Gaughan found himself in a bit of an early jam after Norwood mustered together back-to-back two-out hits in the first inning. However, Gaughan was able to force a fly-out to Cam Martin in left field to end the inning and escape any sort of damage.
The Rebels were set down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first, but Gaughan was able to get Norwood to ground into an inning-ending double play in the top of the second. In the bottom of the second inning, the Walpole bats caught fire. With nobody on base, Bryan Kraus drew a walk to begin what would be a five-run two out rally for the Rebels. Matt Donato then ripped a single down the right field line to put runners at first and third for Jack Magane. After taking the first two pitches for balls, Magane cracked a single into right field to plate Kraus from third, giving the Rebels a 1-0 lead and putting runners at first and second for senior captain Cam Martin. On a 1-1 count, Martin turned on a hanging breaking ball and ripped a single into right, plating Donato from second and moving Magane over to third. Martin advanced to second following the throw to the plate. Andrew Moore then dribbled a ball up the third base line and the throw to first bounced away into foul territory, allowing both Magane and Martin to come around and score and Moore to advance all the way to third base. On the first pitch of the ensuing at-bat, Moore crossed home plate after a passed ball to the backstop, and the Rebels entered the third inning ahead by five.
Gaughan continued to deal in the Norwood half of the third, getting two groundouts and a fly-out to center to preserve the 5-0 lead.The Rebels kept hammering away at the plate in the bottom of the third, plating seven runs. Tyler Page and Brian Gaughan countered a Charlie Auditore groundout with a pair of single to put runners at first and second with one out. Bryan Kraus reached on a fielding error at shortstop, allowing Page to come around and score while advancing Gaughan to third. Matt Donato then cracked his second hit of the game with a single to center, plating Gaughan for the 7-0 edge and putting runners at first and second. Jack Magane grounded into a fielder’s choice at second to put runners at first and third for Cam Martin with two away. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Martin hammered a ball past the right fielder for a triple, plating both Kraus and Magane and extending Walpole’s lead to nine. Andrew Moore than cracked an RBI single to right, as Martin crossed home to make it a 10-0 lead. The Rebels would bat around in the inning, as Charlie Auditore slammed an RBI double into the right-center field gap to plate Moore and extend the lead to 11. Norwood finally put an end to the inning on a fly out to left, but the damage had already been done.
Gaughan sent the Mustangs down in order in the top of the fourth via a groundout, strikeout, and fly out. The Mustangs were able to escape the fourth inning without surrendering any runs and the game entered the fifth with Walpole still in front by 11. Gaughan gave up a single to begin the sixth but then settled in by recording a strikeout, a fielder’s choice to second, and a pop-out back to the mound to end the inning.
The Rebels would add a twelfth run in the bottom of the fifth with Gaughan notching an RBI single to center.
Gaughan continued to dominate on the mound in the top of the sixth, striking out one and getting two groundouts.
Cam Martin added two more RBI in the bottom of the sixth with a single into right field with the bases loaded, extending the Walpole lead to 14. The Rebels would add another to make it a 15-0 lead heading into the seventh. Matt Donato closed the door with a 1-2-3 seventh inning (all groundouts), as the Rebels closed the door on Norwood and punched their ticket to the quarterfinals.