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May 27, 2013

High school baseball: Poor start sinks Lawrence comeback

LAWRENCE — Talk about taking advantage of a second chance.

Rain on Friday wiped out four quality innings of pitching from lefty ace Joan Vargas and, more importantly, Lawrence’s 4-0 lead over Tewksbury in the Lawrence Invitational tourney final.

When the Redmen took the field last night in the replay, they did everything they could to put the heat on the Lancers right from the start. Aggressive baserunning created some defensive issues for the host squad that even a massive comeback couldn’t cure. After Lawrence erased a seven-run deficit in the sixth inning, two errors in the top of the seventh led to the deciding tally in Tewksbury’s 8-7 title triumph.

It was Tewksbury’s first Invitational championship since 2000 and only its third overall crown in 32 years.

“We did everything we possibly could do to give them a seven-run lead,” said Lancer head coach Brendan Neilon. “Give our team credit, we fought back but you can’t spot anyone that kind of lead in a championship game and expect to win.”

As is his M.O., long-time Redmen head coach Ron Drouin, a Lawrence High alum and Methuen resident, pulled out all the stops on offense. Dialing up fake bunts to advance runners to uncovered bases, forcing poor fielding via nine stolen bases that led to four unearned runs, setting up a steal of home that led to a run-scoring balk, plus a pair of attempted suicide squeezes ... Drouin went deep into his bag of tricks.

“From 1996 to 2008, we clearly got the better of (Lawrence) but from ‘09 to now, they’ve owned us,” the 20-year veteran coach said. “We had to play a little bit reckless to see if it worked. We don’t swing the bats well so we try to do things that are unorthodox like stealing home plate. We had to take some chances.”

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