Bishops rally for ninth inning walk off victory

By Shaun Moriarty
Citizen Chronicle Writer
Shaun@TheCitizenChronicle.com

WORCESTER — The Oxford Pirates were just one out away from victory, but David Ryan played the role of spoiler — twice — to lead the Archbishop Williams Bishops to the state championship

Ryan hit a game-tying single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to force extra innings, and then came up with the walk-off hit in the ninth inning, sending the Pirates down the plank to a 4-3 loss in the Division 4 state championship game at Fitton Field.

The Pirates and Bishops went into the bottom of the ninth inning with the game knotted at three runs for each side. With Archbishop Williams’ bottom half of the lineup due, Oxford coach Justin Richards sent southpaw David Meech back to the mound for his ninth inning of work. Patrick Kelly led off the frame with a soaring flyball to straightaway centerfield, dropping in for a long double to knock Meech out of the game with the potential winning run in scoring position and nobody out. Richards called on Dante Purretta to work out of the jam, while immediately calling for an intentional walk of Neil Sanders to put two men on base and setting up a potential double play. Purretta spun around to try picking off the lead runner, but his errant throw ended up in the outfield and allowed Kelly to scramble into third base, just 90 feet from victory. After Sanders took second on defensive indifference, Purretta was able to bear down and strike out Connor Dolan for the first out. Ryan made sure the game would go no further, lacing a Purretta pitch past the dive of drawn in Oxford shortstop Joel Erickson, allowing Kelly to come home with his arms raised victoriously.

Kelly slowed down and leaped for home plate as the Archbishop Williams bench stormed the field to celebrate. While Kelly was coming home, the home plate umpire turned toward the wave of Bishops players in a futile attempt to keep them from potentially impeding the action. An Oxford player with the game ball soon frantically made his way around home plate, seemingly in a search for Kelly before ultimately stepping on home plate with the ball in his hand, calling for the umpires to call the winning run out for missing home plate. The umpires, including the home plate umpire whose back was to the plate as Kelly scored, declined to reverse the call and the game was over. Photographic evidence indicates Kelly did indeed touch the back corner of home plate with his right foot as he came down from his leap.

The walk off victory was made possible when Ryan capped off a Bishops rally in the seventh inning to tie the game with no outs to give. Meech retired the first two batters of that frame before giving up a base hit to Sanders. Seemingly flustered, Meech walked Dolan on five pitches, putting the tying run in scoring position. Ryan then drilled a hard grounder through the right side of the infield to score Sanders, tying the game, before Meech rebounded by getting Kyle Strojny on a groundout to end the inning.

Ryan went 2-for-2 with a walk and three RBI in the ballgame. Meech took a difficult loss, charged with four runs, three earned, on seven hits and four walks while striking out nine in eight-plus innings. The Oxford lefty threw 143 pitches, 80 for strikes.

Samuel Hamer was credited with the victory for Archbishop Williams, working four strong innings in relief. Hamer struck out two, hit one batter, and allowed one unearned run on two hits in his time on the rubber. Brandon Sullivan got the start for the Bishops, holding Oxford to two runs on three hits and three walks with six strikeouts in five innings.

Oxford nearly took the first lead of the game in the top of the third inning of what was then a scoreless game. Ryan Parr led off the inning with a base hit to right field, and was moved along by a Michael Bordeaux bunt single. After a Jason Panient popup to shortstop, Parr was able to advance on a flyball off the bat of Meech. With two outs and men on the corners, the Pirates looked to a decoy play by sending Bordeaux about halfway to second base, and on a pathway that nearly took him into the outfield, looking to draw a throw to enable Parr to score. As Bishops players looked on, some contesting Bordeaux had left the baseline, Parr spotted his opportunity and bolted for the plate, only to be called out on a close play. Photos indicate the wrong call was made as Parr can be seen sliding his left hand over the plate before Archbishop Williams catcher Ryan Bellew tagged him.

The Bishops took the lead in the fourth inning as Strojny drew a four-pitch walk to open the frame, and back-to-back singles loaded the bases. Strojny then scored as Bordeaux tried to pick off the lead runner with a snap throw to third base, but the catcher’s throw wound up in the outfield instead. Archbishop Williams manufactured a second run in the fifth inning after a leadoff single by Sanders. After a pitch bounced by the catcher, Sanders moved to second and was bunted over to third base before Ryan laid down a well-executed squeeze bunt to plate his teammate.

Oxford got onto the scoreboard in the sixth inning, taking its first lead of the game and putting the Pirates in a position for an impressive comeback victory. Panient drew a leadoff walk and scored when Meech belted a triple to right field and later scored on a Noah Buckley single. After a one-out sacrifice bunt put Buckley into scoring position, Erickson hit a line drive single to right field to give Oxford a precarious 3-2 lead.

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