LOWELL — It was a goal too big to ignore.
“For the seniors coming into this season, we were saying that we wanted to go out the way we came in, as North sectional champions,” said Whittier ace Andrew Wells.
So the Wildcats weren’t going to let little things like unsettled play or a two-run deficit to St. Mary’s keep them from their destiny. When Wells found his groove on the LeLacheur Park hill, the comeback commenced. And when Nate Frongillo ripped a line single to right field in the bottom of the seventh inning, bringing Connor Manning streaking home, Whittier accomplished its major achievement via a walk-off 4-3 victory.
Next up will be a berth in the state semifinals against South champ Middleboro,to be played at LeLacheur Tuesday at 4 p.m.
“To beat St. Mary’s, you have to have a pretty excellent day,” Boland said. “Wellsie never thought we were underdogs against them but I did, so I couldn’t be more proud of my guys.”
Ironically, neither team got off to a particularly great start save for Spartan starter Brendan DeLeire (one earned run, four hits, 10 strikeouts), who fanned the first five Wildcat batters he faced.
A hit batter, two physical errors, an infield popup from Chris Butler that fell between two ‘Cat players for a single and a Victor Molle outfield fly that was lost in the lights for a double gave St. Mary’s a 2-0 lead after three innings before Whittier tightened up and battled back.
Wells (two earned runs, five hits, five strikeouts, no walks, one hit batter) did his part despite yielding a sixth-inning run on Scott Betts’ long triple to right and Bryan Nerich’s RBI single. Over the final four innings, Wells retired 12 of the final 15 batters he faced.