Milford sweeps its way into states; Lefty Murray (12 Ks) shuts down East Side.
COLUMN: AMERICAN LEGION
MILFORD - The 2008 Milford Zone 4 American Legion champions are a squad the legendary Post 59 coach Pep Morcone would be proud of.
After falling behind, 10-1, through seven innings in Game 1 of its second-round State Sectional series against East Side, Milford rallied for a come-from-behind, 12-11 victory. It followed up Tuesday's dramatic victory with a 4-3 win last night at Fino Field behind a beautiful pitching performance from 16-year-old Jack Murray to sweep the best-of-three series.
"I think it comes down to having an outstanding pitched game and just doing enough to get by and win," Milford manager Rich Piergustavo said. "My hat's off to East Side, they have a very good team. They do all the fundamental things well and they battle."
Milford (26-2) will try to add to Morcone's four state crowns in the State Tournament that begins Tuesday at Szot Park in Chicopee. East Side, which was riding a 10-game winning streak coming into the series, finishes with a record of 21-7.
Murray was the difference in Game 2, holding a hard-hitting East Side lineup, which pounded out 15 hits in Game 1, to just four hits - all singles - three of which didn't get out of the infield.
"I want to give credit to our kids for showing some incredible character today," East Side manager Mark Peters said. "I thought we came down here after last night and they showed incredible character and battled all day. We fell a run short and that's baseball."
Murray, who pitched a no-hitter for Milford High in his first varsity start this spring and didn't give up an earned run in 24 innings during the regular season while going 4-0, was quick to share credit with all his teammates and coaches as well as a fairly-unlikely source, a co-worker of his father's, Joe Lasozza, who adjusted his delivery on his curveball, improving a good breaking ball to a downright deadly one.
"I talked to my dad's friend, he's a pitcher, and he taught me how to release it more and grip it better," Murray said. "It feels good."
Shane Keddy was the tough-luck loser, allowing four runs on eight hits with four walks and four strikeouts over 6-1/3 innings.
"He busts his tail every time he does something, whether it's an at-bat or he's on the mound or whatever, he battles his butt all the time," Peters said.
Murray was perfect through three innings with seven strikeouts - four looking at spectacular breaking balls - until Shawn Frigon reached on an infield error in the fourth.
"For a kid as young as he is he has excellent stuff, and the difference for him is command and he had good command tonight of all his pitches. He was pretty special tonight," Piergustavo said. "It's one of those games. I think when you get to this time of year there is a lot of emotion that plays a part in the game, some guys are tired so pitchers have a little bit of an advantage if they make their pitches, and I thought Jack made his pitches."
Frank Flynn broke up Murray's no-hitter with a leadoff single in the fifth. Dan Conrad followed with a walk and Steve Sargent beat out a bunt single to load the bases. Robert De los Santos drove the first Raider run in, beating out another infield single. Conrad scored on a double play ball by Ryan Griffin and Sargent made it 3-0 East Side, scoring when Frigon reached on another error.
After Milford stranded six runners in the first four innings, Matt Collins put the home team on the board with a 400-foot, two-run triple to left-center with no outs in the bottom of the fifth.
"Matty Collins has played so well for us all year," added Piergustavo. "He's caught the majority of the games and to still maintain his bat speed and his leadership, keeping everyone in the game is pretty special; he's a good player, a very good player."
Bryant Johnson drove in Collins to tie the game with a double down the left-field line to prompt a visit from East Side pitching coach Dan Generelli.After getting the first out on a ground ball then walking Mike Priete on four pitches, Keddy got a potential double-play ball from Matt White but the Raider defense failed to get even one out, allowing Johnson to plate the go-ahead run.Milford threatened again in the eighth, putting two runners on with only one out but Creen put out the fire with back-to-back strikeouts in relief of Keddy.
CUTLINE: East Side's Frank Flynn connects for a hit in the fifth inning.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff/JIM COLLINS
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Jul 31, 2008|
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