Nick Bates scores the only run of the game as #8 Nick Cardoni celebrates
Text and photos by Steev Riccardo
Worcester – The Oxford Pirates beat the Hopedale Blue Raiders 1-0 on a perfectly executed squeeze play in the top of the seventh inning at Tivnan field on Sunday afternoon to win the Division 3 Central Mass title and to advance to the Mass State Tournament.
Cody Stone laid down a perfect bunt, scoring Nick Bates from third base with one out to preserve the shutout win for Pirates ace Nick Lemay, who was outstanding, pitching himself out a jam in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Pirates coach Justin Richards was elated afterwards and said this was the biggest win of his coaching career. He also praised Hopedale, where he had previously started his career as an assistant coach before taking the Oxford job four years ago.
“It was fun the first six innings to be down here; unfortunately one of us had to lose,” said Richards. “We come from the same type mold, we have the same philosophies; it was really great that both of our programs made it here.”
Pirate hero Cody Stone and Coach Justin Richards
Richards felt confident with the squeeze play and knew he had the right people in the right places. “He (Stone) is the best bat handler we have if we were going to get the bunt down; Cody was the one person I was most confident in getting the bunt down and he did.”
Bates, only a sophomore, and up in a key situation, started the Pirates rally with the biggest hit of his career. “I was just trying to make contact, put the bat on the ball, I’m the number nine hitter, that is what I am supposed to do.”
As for the squeeze play, Bates was ready to go. “The coach told me the squeeze was on and he said once we get a strike on him, just go.”
Lemay, who was brilliant once again on the mound, could feel something was about to happen. “As soon as Bates hit that triple I knew we were going to score. I have so much faith in Cody; every time he is at the plate I know he is going to do something good. He has that mentality.”
“I try to do as much as I can and keep our team up,” said Stone, who like several of his teammates, was part of the Oxford team that won the state championship in the town league in 2010, and has been one of this team’s leaders all season.
“At the beginning of the game we talked to Nick Bates and James Sheehan, the only two guys on the team that weren’t on the town league state championship team. We told them it was going to come down to them and look what happened. Without Nick Bates and, of course, Nick Lemay, we don’t win that game.”
Stone also praised a gutsy Blue Raiders team. “They are a great team, one through nine, it was hard, they battled, I knew it was going to come down to pitching and we have a way better pitcher than anyone.”
Nick Lemay, superb as usual in the clincher
Lemay proved his worth in the bottom of the seventh inning, pitching out of a jam with two runners on and one out. “The biggest out was that second out, I knew if I was going to throw and my teammates were going to make the play.”
“Words can not even describe how I feel right now. I knew coming into this game that it was going to be a battle, a low scoring game, their pitcher is really good. I myself needed to hold them to one to zero runs. I am so glad that we manufactured the run in the last inning to get the lead against them.”
Lemay said he was going to go home and run ten miles like he always does, and certainly pitched like he always does on Sunday, dominating his opponent, allowing only two hits while striking out seven.
The Pirates, who are now 17-5, will face Mt. Everett on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Szot Park in Chicopee in a Division 3 state semifinal.
Pirates overpower Narragansett in semi-final win
Nick Cardoni (photo above) pitched one of his best games of the season, a complete game three-hitter, in the Pirates 7-0 win over Narragansett in a game that was postponed twice and played at Fino Field in Milford on Friday, June 8.
Cardoni walked his only two batters in the first inning but was nearly flawless after that. The junior right-hander may have been a bit nervous pitching in a big game early. “I had a couple of butterflies at the beginning of the game but once you start throwing some strikes it comes back to you.”
“It feels great coming into a district game and getting a win for us,” said Cardoni.
Stone continued his torrid hitting with a couple of big keys, while team mate Mike Cicero also had a couple of RBI’s.
Opening round game Tuesday, June 5
Lemay was masterful in the Pirates opening round 9-0 win over Abby Kelley Foster. He not only struck out 15 batters in five innings, but also capped off his great pitching performance with a monster two-run homer. It may not have been as good as his opening day three-hit sixteen-strikeout performance over Quaboag, but it was close.
“In the past couple starts I couldn’t really locate that well, I was walking guys left and right. Today I didn’t walk anyone. I was just focusing on getting the ball over the plate. I knew my defense would make plays,” said Lemay.
“I miss-located on the first two hits, they were both right down the middle. The first kid’s hit was a 2-0 count so I had to throw a strike. I give them props because they went with both the pitches. I was confident I was trying to throw strikes.”
Stone also had a big game at the plate going three-for- four with a pair of RBI’s.
Dennis Snead also looked sharp, striking out two batters in the sixth, while Tyler Barrie got in a slight jam in the seventh inning but pitched his way out of it nicely.
The celebration is on
Pirate seniors receive trophy from Oxford Principal Kevin Wells
and Oxford AD John Doldoorian
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