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Blue Devils rally, upset Guardians; Jakola squashes 7th-inning threat.

Byline: Shaun Suhoski

LEOMINSTER -- After some fielding jitters helped St. Peter-Marian build an early five-run lead, fifth-ranked Leominster High clawed back to gain a 7-6 win over the No. 1 Guardians Saturday at Doyle Field behind Tanner Jakola's complete game.

At first, a complete game, yet alone a win, seemed unlikely for the senior right-hander as St. Peter-Marian scored three times in the first, and twice more in the second, behind six hits and three errors by Leominster.

"We made mistakes behind (Jakola) but he didn't give in,'' said Blue Devils coach Richard Barnaby II, whose team improved to 7-3 with its third straight victory. "That's why I left him in the game, because I knew he would tough it out.''

"That's what our seniors are supposed to do. When adversity (struck) he picked up the ball and kept getting us outs. And then the offense picked him up.''

Trailing, 5-4, in the bottom of the fourth, Leominster scored two runs to take the lead.

Ryan Lever lifted a double just inside the right field line and advanced to third base on a groundout. After Neil O'Connor was hit by a pitch, Tyler Vaillette reached on an error that allowed Lever to score and O'Connor to advance to third.

With Brett Corliss at the plate, Pat Gallagher came in to pitch after Dan Bushe appeared to suffer an injury. But his first pitch bounded low and wide to the backstop, allowing O'Connor to scamper home for the lead run.

Meantime, Jakola scuttled the early use of his changeup in favor of a biting breaking ball that kept the Guardians off balance in the later innings.

"The changeup really wasn't working too well early on,'' mused Jakola, while crediting his teammates offensive production for the win. "When we got those four runs in the third and fourth inning, that's what turned the game around. We had the momentum from there.''

In the sixth, O'Connor belted a home run to left for what proved to be a needed insurance run.

St. Peter-Marian (7-3) looked to rally in the seventh. Jono Crimmin walked, advanced to second on Riley's groundout and took third on a wild pitch.

Crimmin scored on another wild pitch to close the margin to 7-6 before the nervous home crowd.

But Jakola induced a sky-high popout, and first baseman Brennan Cuddahy made a nice play on a Gallagher grounder for an unassisted putout to end the game.

"(Leominster) took advantage of our non-strike-throwing ability,'' Guardians coach Ed Riley said.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Suhoski, Shaun
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 4, 2014
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