LEXINGTON — Around the fifth inning, the concern began to seep in for Kevin Fielding and his pitcher, Juan Medina.
The Lawrence High baseball coach could see Medina’s gas tank nearing empty, and the senior could feel a slight pain in his back that began before the game and just wouldn’t go away. But, with all he had, Medina reared back and popped in a fastball that was louder than any he’d thrown all game. Then and there, he and his coach knew he wasn’t coming out.
“A little Schilling-ish,” Fielding said in reference to former Sox Curt Schilling.
With all he had, Medina powered through injury and fatigue to polish off a complete game, two-hit shutout on Monday, as Lawrence beat Lexington, 7-0, to advance to the Division 1 North semifinals.
“I just told my team I was going to do my best,” Medina said. “I know I’m injured, but I’m going to do my best ... I don’t have the words to explain (my emotions) right now.”
Medina’s effort included nine strikeouts, along with plenty of instances in which he pitched his way out of jams. Despite allowing just two hits, Medina walked five batters, and with a few errors by the Lancers (14-8), the Minutemen (15-7) came close to putting runs on the board.
However, Medina and the fielders behind him had their say, and with moments like doubling up a runner on second from deep right-center or a snap throw by catcher Henry Checo to pick a batter off first when Lexington was threatening.
“(Those plays) changed the momentum,” Fielding said.
Jams or no jams, Medina was still dealing, regardless of the situation.
He worked at different paces, changed his arm slots on different pitches, and continued to bamboozle the Lexington batters. He simply describes it as “going with the flow.”
“I just keep doing the things I’ve done all season,” Medina said.
Medina’s been Lawrence’s centerfielder, and Fielding said he wasn’t pitching as much for the Lancers before this season. Sometimes, the coach said he has to motivate the senior to keep him going, but Medina needed little motivation on Monday.
Despite the injury and what was at stake, Fielding said Medina was the pitcher he wants on the hill in that type of scenario. Plus, a little run support didn’t hurt.
The Lancers put up a few runs early, with a safety squeeze by Denis Brito to score Kebler Peralta doing the job to get the offense going, then tacked on more later with big hits, like a two-RBI triple by Christian Varona. The mix of small-ball and timely hitting meant Medina was more than comfortable navigating through the Lexington lineup.
“We like to let them swing and we’ve won championships like that,” Fielding said. “But I want to add some small-ball, and we did.”
The seven-run cushion was enough for Medina to head out for the final inning, in which he quickly retired the side in order, with a strikeout to clinch the win followed by a wave good-bye to the batter he’d just fanned.
Medina’s wave is a symbol of the Lancers’ attitude, as, despite holding the No. 6 seed in the tournament, there’s no shortage of confidence among the team.
“We’re a lower seed, but we know what we can do,” Fielding said. “We’re dangerous.”
Lawrence 7, Lexington 0
Lawrence (7): Kebler Peralta ss 4-1-1, Juan Medina p 4-1-2, Miguel Matos pr 0-1-0, Henry Checo c 2-1-1, Jhovany Molina pr 0-1-0, Christian Varona 1b 4-1-1, Luis Mejia 3b 4-0-1, Luis Colon lf 4-1-1, Inocencio Cuevas cf 3-0-0, Onesimo Acosta rf 3-0-1, Denis Brito 2b 2-0-0, Totals: 30-7-8
RBI: Christian Varona 3, Luis Mejia, Denis Brito
WP: Juan Medina; LP: Graham Seed
Lawrence (14-8): 0 1 2 0 1 0 3 — 7
Lexington (15-7): 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0