After pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings to start the game, and knocking in two runs with a triple to right, freshman Stephen Madden made a diving catch in left field to secure Abington baseball’s first EMass title since 2009.
John Sellon, another freshman, relieved Madden with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of third. He promptly struck out the batter to end the threat, and then pitched another two scoreless innings. Henry Rogers, yet another freshman, pitched a scoreless seventh inning, as Abington defeated St. Joseph’s Prep 10-3 to earn the Green Wave a slot in the Division 4 state championship game.
“I don’t even know if I’ve had freshmen pitchers pitch meaningful innings, never mind three of them in a state semifinal game,” Abington Coach Steve Perakslis said afterwards. “It’s a compliment to our jayvee program, a compliment to the town developing these players.”
Madden, who also picked up the sectional semifinal win over West Bridgewater last week, was dominant, striking out five of the first seven batters he faced. He said he went into Wednesday’s start viewing it as “just another game” and the culmination of what he’d been working toward all season.
“The guys rely on me to come through,” Madden said, sporting a red tropical shirt after the game.
Sellon was all smiles afterwards, relishing his clutch performance.
“I’ve wanted this since I can remember,” he said. “I know I have a great defense behind me. All I have to do is throw strikes.”
Offensively, the Green Wave got contributions up and down the line up. Senior Matt Maguire got the scoring started in the first inning with an RBI triple that drove in fellow senior John Polito. Abington used five straight singles in the second inning from Ed Reilly, Henry Rogers (who would score on a double steal), Polito, Ryan Tobin, and Aaron Siegal to add three more runs.
Abington really broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth. Madden roped a triple into right field, scoring Aidan O’Donnell. Reilly then placed a fly ball down the right field line to score A J Nash, who had come in to run for Madden. After a single by Sellon, Polito hit a long sacrifice fly to center field to score Reilly. Tobin walked and then Siegel appeared to be hit by a pitch, however the umpire ruled that Siegel had turned into the throw, keeping him at the plate. Siegel responded on the very next pitch with a long triple to right center, that scored Sellon and Tobin, and gave Abington a 9-1 lead heading in to the late innings.
In the top of the sixth, St. Joseph’s John Bennett hit the Phoenix’ hardest shot of the day, a triple to right center field that scored his teammate Jackson Savoy. Bennett then scored when Madden misjudged a ball in left field to make it a 9-3 game.
The game was delayed for nearly an hour prior to the bottom of the sixth for lightning. When it resumed shortly at 7 p.m., Abington added to its lead when O’Donnell scored on a sacrifice fly by Reilly.
St. Joseph’s, which went down in order four times in the seven-inning game, put one base runner on in the top of the seventh following a throwing error by Abington, but then hit two fly ball outs to end their season.
The good news for Abington, which has played the last two weeks without ace senior pitcher Brady Cristoforo, who is out with a knee injury, is that both Madden and Sellon will be eligible to pitch in the state finals. Perakslis kept both freshmen at or under 40 pitches; as a result, under MIAA rules they will have enough rest to throw again by Friday. If the championship game is held Saturday, O’Donnell, who threw 115 pitches on Monday, will also be eligible to pitch.
Perakslis said taking Madden out in the third inning was “probably the hardest baseball move” he had ever made.
“That goes against everything I have preached or thought as a coach,” he said. “But this is the world we live in now with pitch counts. Fortunately, it worked.”
Abington will next play for the state Division 4 title against the winner of Tahanto Regional and Hopkins Academy. That game was postponed until Thursday due to Wednesday afternoon’s storms.