LOWELL – Had the Chelmsford Lions not won their final two games of the regular season, not only would they not have made the MIAA Division 1 North baseball tournament, but their opponent, the Lowell Red Raiders, would have had a bye in the first round.
But the no. 13 seed Lions took advantage of their opportunity and came away with a 6-4 upset of the no. 4 seed Red Raiders Thursday night at Alumni Stadium.
“I said we were going to make these tournament games three games ago,” Chelmsford head coach Mike O’Keefe said. “We want to have some excitement. This is an elimination game. We’re a little bit used to it. Maybe we didn’t want that to have to happen three games ago, but I think in a strange way it helps us coming into the tournament.”
The Lions used a combination of their baserunning and Lowell’s miscues to sink the opposition. Five stolen bases, five errors, three hit batsmen, two wild pitches and a balk led to five unearned runs for the Lions. The lone earned run proved to be the eventual game winner when Mitch Smith (2-for-2, double, stolen base, walk, hit by pitch) scored on an RBI double by Derek Adamson (2-for-4) as part of a four-run fourth.
“One of the things we’ve struggled with (against Lowell) was putting the ball in play,” O’Keefe said. “That’s what we were stressing all week long – make sure they have to make some plays. We didn’t know it was going to work out the way that it did… the ball bounced our way, literally.”
Mitch McCabe (1-for-3, double, stolen base, two runs) scored an insurance run in the fifth after Lowell’s Dalton Quinn committed a balk.
Lowell never quit, using their own baserunning skills to claw back into the game in the fourth. Dawy Lebron scored on a passed ball and Edgar Velazquez stole home as part of a double steal attempt to cut the Chelmsford lead to 5-3.
Josh Roberge toughed out 6 1/3 innings to get the win for the Lions. He scattered eight hits while striking out nine. After allowing a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh, Joe Levesque came in to get the final three batters in order for the save.
The Red Raiders (13-8) opened the scoring with small ball in the bottom of the first. Keith Lynch led off the inning with a double, Matt Smith sacrificed him over to third, and Alex Cruz (3-for-3) plated him with an RBI single.
Chelmsford tied the game in the top of the second as John Barry scored on an error.