LAWRENCE — There’s a euphoria engulfing the Methuen High dugout. Winners of seven of their last eight, the Ranger seniors don’t want this season to end.
Yesterday, it was Jon Pierce and Enrique Veras with back-to-back hits in the fifth inning for the game-winning run in a 3-2 Division 1 North first-round win over Lawrence.
Tomorrow, it will be Evan Lacroix’s turn as he takes the hill in the North quarters at No. 2 Cambridge, tentatively set for 1 p.m.
“I just can’t say enough about the three seniors and their leadership and what they’ve done this spring,” said Eric Cyr, who coached the Rangers to their first postseason baseball win since 2004. “They’ve helped mold this group as a unit, and they just keep coming up with the big play, the big hit to keep us going.”
Pierce came to the plate with the scored tied 2-2 and two outs already placed in the book in a quiet fifth against Lancer ace Joan Vargas.
He turned on a fastball, though, sending it deep to left for a triple. Just as quickly, Veras laced a bullet to the gap to plate what turned out to be the game-winner.
“It’s the situation you play in your mind as a kid, two outs and the winning run on in a big game,” said Veras. “I just tried to hit the ball on a line somewhere. Hit it hard. It’s just the hit that every kid dreams about.”
With a 3-2 lead, the Rangers needed nine outs.
Money sophomore Jacob Wallace, now 5-3, got six of them, and Danny Aziz finished the job, allowing only a walk in the scoreless seventh.
“Wallace was excellent again, and there’s no guy on this team I’d rather have in that pressure situation than Aziz,” said Cyr. “He just competes, throw strikes and he never gets nervous.”
Sophomore Nick Panzini’s two-run hit put the Rangers on top 2-0 in the second, before the Lancers scratched out single runs in the second and fourth to tie.
Both pitchers had their way, but Vargas made two mistakes, and the Rangers made none.
“That’s a gritty team,” said Lancer coach Brendan Neilon, whose club was 12-6 against everyone else this year but 0-3 vs. the Rangers. “They made plays. Pierce had the big hit, then knocks that ball down at shortstop and throws us out on that play in the seventh. They deserved it.”
Both teams exit at 12-9, but the Rangers live to play another day.
“First tourney win here in a long time, and that feels great,” said Veras. “Lawrence was a good, strong team, and we’re going to have to bring it again just like this again against Cambridge.”
Methuen 3, Lawrence 2
Division 1 North First Round
Methuen (3): Evan Lacroix cf 4-0-1, Josue Espinal 2b 4-0-2, Jon Pierce ss 2-1-1, Enrique Veras 1b 4-0-2, Josh Martinez 3b 3-0-0, Danny Aziz lf/p 3-1-1, Jacob Wallace p/lf 3-1-1, Evan Comerford dh 3-0-0, Nick Panzini c 2-0-1, Patrick Menihane rf 0-0-0, Totals 28-3-9
Lawrence (2): Darluigi Gonzalez cf 3-1-1, Jesus Ventura rf 3-0-1, Julio Leon dh 3-0-1, Luis Ortiz lf 2-1-0, Josh Casado 1b 3-0-2, Ignacio Cespeda 3b 2-0-0, Elvis Peralta ss 0-0-0, Brahiam Ortega 2b 3-0-0, Chris Liriano c 2-0-0, Josh Lluberes ph 1-0-0, Edison Urena ss/3b 3-0-0, Joan Vargas p 0-0-0, Wilmer Gomez p 0-0-0, Totals 25-2-4
RBI: M — Panzini, Veras; L — Ventura, Cespedes
WP: Wallace; LP: Vargas
Methuen (12-9): 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 — 3
Lawrence (12-9): 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 — 2