Text and photos by Steev Riccardo
OXFORD - The Shepherd Hill Rams were on their way to what looked like an easy win until the bottom of the seventh inning when the Oxford Pirates scored six runs in a rally that fell short when they left the bases loaded.
Rams righty Cam Scotia came in relief and struck out Liam Pickett, leaving the tying and winning runs on base and in scoring position in what would have seemed like an improbable comeback against the 11-2 Rams.
Sophomore slugger Brady Ravenelle, who was hitting over .600 entering the game, knocked home Matt Vertucci, who had singled, with a triple and scored on an error to give the Rams a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Shepherd Hill sophomore Brady Ravenelle
The Rams put two more runs on the board in the top of the third inning when Vertucci and Brady Ravenelle got on base again and were driven home by a Chris Daniels double with two outs, extending the lead to 4-0.
Al Augustine knocked in a couple more runs with a triple in the fifth inning and Brady Ravenelle singled another run in the sixth inning and the Rams had built what looked like a safe 8-1 lead, but they soon found out what other teams have experienced this season, the Pirates don’t quit.
Drew Ravenelle pitched a solid game for the Rams
Rams starter Drew Ravenelle left the game in the fifth inning following an outstanding three-hit, seven- strikeout performance. Reliever Tyler Faille had an easy sixth inning but the Pirates weren’t about to go softly in the seventh.
Zakk Renihan led the inning off with a double, followed by a Nick Bates single, a couple walks and a hit batsman, and before long the Pirates had scored six runs and had the bases loaded with two outs.
Scotia showed great poise and put out the fire to preserve the win for the Rams in what turned into a drama-filled affair.
“I know Cam can throw strikes and I knew when we went to him he was going to do well,” said Rams coach Shaun Ducharme on Scotia’s relief effort.
Ducharme also didn’t want to let the shaky seventh inning downplay what Drew Ravenelle had done earlier. “He is a veteran pitcher, he has been pitching for four years, he sets you up with a curveball and throws the fastball by you and he can do the opposite as well. He’s crafty, he’s good, and he’s smart.”
Oxford's Nick Cardoni
Despite the loss, Pirates coach Justin Richards could see some positives with his team’s play. “We are still trying to teach these kids how to win the big games. Eight to four is a good start; we have four losses against four really good teams. We need to learn that it takes a little bit extra to beat these really good teams and we didn’t do that today in the first five innings.”
“Every little mistake we made they capitalized and that is what good teams do,” said Richards. “That was the difference early on. One of the things that could help us down the road is that this team does not quit. That is the second or third time that we have done that in games. It’s a learning curve and we are still learning how to get there.”
‘We knew how good they (Shepherd Hill) are. They have beaten both Northbridge and Auburn. We know we are good too, we are flying a little bit under the radar, which is good.”
The Pirates only need two more wins to clinch a playoff berth and with eight games left, the defending Central Mass champions have a very good chance to do just that.
The 11-2 Rams are in the playoffs and now can play for a higher seed, which will be very important for them in a tough Division 1.
Diamond Notes: Vertucci, who had three hits on Friday, has caught fire for the Rams, who as a team were hitting an incredible .466 going into the Oxford game…A couple of former Pirates players, Nick LeMay and Tyler Bostek, both now playing at Becker College, were on hand to cheer their team on.
Oxford's Tyler Barrie
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