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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The last time Wellesley and Xaverian baseball met back on May 30 in Westwood, 19 runs were scored in an offensive showcase. The Raiders earned a big 11-8 victory.
On Thursday, the No. 3 Raiders (15-5) took on the No. 7 Hawks (12-8) in the semifinal round of the Division I South Sectionals at Adams Field in Quincy, and the sequel between these two heavyweights was just as entertaining as the first time around.
Henry Weycker was able to work around a leadoff walk to Chris Ducko with a double play and a fly to right to get the Raiders out of the first inning.
Ciolfi led off the bottom of the first for the Raiders with a double into the left-center field gap. The speedster stole third base before Henry Weycker drove him in with an RBI single to right for a 1-0 Wellesley lead.
Weycker fanned a pair in the top of the second before a diving stab at third and throw to first by Thomas Lieberman got Wellesley out of the inning. Ciolfi cracked another double into the left-center field gap with no outs in the bottom of the second to plate Lieberman and extend Wellesley’s lead to 2-0.
Matt Joyce led off the top of the third for Xaverian with a bunt single down the third base line. A sacrifice bunt by Paul Manning moved Joyce into scoring position before the speedy Dorchester native stole third. Xaverian was able to cut the deficit to 2-1 with two outs in the inning, thanks to an error at second base. Owen Langan sent the Raiders down in order in the bottom of the third with a strikeout and a pair of groundouts to Jake Cassidy at short.
Charlie Bean tied the game at two with a sacrifice fly that plated Kyle Sylvester in the top of the fourth, but Lieberman scored on a passed ball to the backstop during the next half-inning to give the Raiders back the lead at 3-2 after four full.
Both teams went down in order in their halves of the fifth. Xaverian tied the game at three thanks to another RBI from Bean, this time coming in the form of a two-out single to left to score Cassidy. Bean then stole a pair of bases and came around to score thanks to a single up the middle by Sean Birch to give the Hawks their first lead of the game at 4-3.
Wellesley loaded the bases with no outs in the home half of the sixth. Ciolfi lined out to shortstop that froze the runners, but the ball was dropped and thrown to home and third for a double play. Maiona then lined one to second, and the ball was misplayed by Sylvester, allowing Blasco to come home as the tying run and extend the inning for Weycker. With runners on first and second, Weycker smashed a bases-clearing triple to center to give the Raiders back the lead at 6-4. Matt Pizzelli came on in relief for Langan, but Kai Grocki kept the rally going with an RBI single to plate Weycker, extending Wellesley’s lead to 7-4 headed to the seventh.
Weycker came back out for the seventh and recorded a double play after allowing a leadoff single before getting a pop-out to Lieberman at third to end it, and the Raiders advanced with the 7-4 victory.
When asked about his team’s ability to fight back in the bottom of the sixth and how they were able to do it, Wellesley head coach Rob Kane says his group was confident that they could complete the comeback after the way they handled the bat against the Hawks on May 2.
“Confidence. They knew they could win,” said Kane. “Coming into this game, the last six years we’ve played Xaverian … [to a] 3-3 [record]. A lot of those guys aren’t here anymore, but when you look at runs scored versus runs against, it was even. But everyone was here when we beat them the first time this year. Confidence breeds success.”
Kane also credited his group for their collective effort, with guys all around making significant contributions, including Thomas Lieberman, who laid down a critical bunt for a hit in the bottom of the sixth to load the bases.
“The nice thing about these guys is that they believe,” said Kane. “Until they get that 21st out, they always have a chance. It’s nice to see different guys come through for us, because they deserve the opportunity to get recognized. Tommy [Lieberman] lays down that bunt, they’re thinking we were going to bunt the ball to first base and he bunts the ball to third base, because we were going to bunt for a hit there - we weren’t sacrificing. When John Ciolfi hits that ball to shortstop and they get that double play, I just thought ‘okay, not our day,’ because when you load the bases with no outs, the odds of scoring - or at least tying the game - are in your favor, whether it’s a sacrifice fly or whatever. But our guys kept believing, and they were confident. And we responded with a big inning after that. I couldn’t be more proud.”
On Saturday, Wellesley fell to rival Needham in sectional finals, 11-8.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.