Steven Zeuthen (pictured) stands in at the dish during Westwood Legion's 6-5 play-in round victory at Medfield on Friday. Photos by Mike Flanagan.
By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Friday’s play-in round matchup between Medfield and Westwood Legion in the District Six Tournament is living proof that baseball is the most unpredictable sport on the planet.
During their two regular season meetings, Medfield outscored Westwood 21-2 for a pair of lopsided victories. After the River Rats brought back a significant chunk of the roster that nearly won the 2020 MIBL Tournament (played in place of last year's American Legion season due to COVID), Medfield entered the District Six Tournament as one of the favorites to win it.
However, on Friday, the boys from Westwood showed that previous results mean absolutely nothing, especially in a single-elimination round. Thanks to a pair of rallies, Westwood stunned Medfield with a 6-5 win in extra innings to advance to the double-elimination round of the District Six Tournament.
In the early going, it appeared as if Medfield was going to run away with it. Sam Palmer led off the bottom of the first inning with a double to left before advancing to third on a groundout to short by Dennis Folan. Ben Leonard then drove home Palmer with an RBI sacrifice fly to left to draw first blood for the Rats.
Ryan Murray led off the home half of the second with a walk, followed by a single by Jack McDonald and a walk to Charlie Walsh. Max Goodman then reached on an error at first base, allowing Murray to run home with the game’s second run. However, following an overthrow on the initial throw to the plate attempting to nab Murray, McDonald was gunned down trying to score from second. This would later prove pivotal. Walsh later came around to score, thanks to an RBI single to left by Palmer to make it 3-0 after two innings.
After stranding runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings, Westwood’s offense finally broke through in the top of the third. Will Matthews led off the inning with an infield single before stealing second. John Techiera crushed a double into the right-centerfield gap to plate Matthews and get Westwood on the board. Following a groundout to first and a line-out to right, Techiera moved over to third on a wild pitch to the backstop. A throwing error at short by Folan kept the inning alive and allowed Techiera to run home with Westwood’s second run. Following back-to-back walks drawn by Ty Longo and Stephen Zeuthen to load the bases, Jack Rufo ripped a single to right to plate both Derek Nelson and Longo and give Westwood a 4-3 lead through 2 1/2 innings.
Ben Leonard immediately drew Medfield back even in the bottom of the third, crushing the first pitch he saw for a solo home run to left-centerfield. The game remained 4-4 until the top of the fifth when Ty Longo reached on an error before coming around to score, thanks to an RBI single to left by Zeuthen. With Medfield down to their last three outs, Matt Donahue led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk, followed by a single to right by Murray to put the tying run in scoring position. Nate Baacke then ripped a single to right to score Donahue and tie the game, moving the winning run, Murray, into scoring position at third with still nobody out. Murray took a risk on a grounder to second by Walsh, and was thrown out at home trying to score the game-winning run by Nelson. Back-to-back fly-outs by Goodman and Folan got Westwood out of the inning and sent the game to extra innings.
Medfield got two quick outs in the top of the eighth, thanks to a diving catch by Murray in right to rob Zeuthen, followed by a groundout to first. Techiera and Demetri Tsoumbanos then drew back-to-back hit-by-pitches and advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. Another wild pitch to the backstop allowed Techiera to run home with the go-ahead run as Westwood took a 6-5 lead.
Connor Jacobs came on looking to close it out again for Westwood in the bottom of the eighth. Jacobs surrendered walks to Leonard and Kornet but recorded a fly to center by Donahue, a pop to the catcher by Murray and a fly to right by Baacke to end it. Westwood advanced by the 6-5 final.
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0