South Attleboro Legion Edges Norton Again
Post 312 earns its second one-run victory over Post 222 this season on Thursday night.
The Norton and South Attleboro American Legion baseball teams have waged a couple of good battles this summer.
South Attleboro standout pitcher Ed Fitzpatrick and Norton star hurler A.J. Bashaw had a terrific duel on June 14 before Post 312 escaped with a 1-0 win at Bishop Feehan High as the potential tying run for Post 222 was thrown out at the plate to end the game.
The teams continued their rivalry on Thursday night at the David Mollica Baseball Complex in Norton. Once again, South Attleboro emerged victorious, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to edge Post 222, 3-2, in a District 9 contest that took 75 minutes to complete.
The victory on Thursday night officially qualified South Attleboro for next week’s district playoffs as they improved to 12-7. “We are 8-2 in our last 10 games,” said South Attleboro head coach Tom Maloof. “We are playing that kind of baseball right now. We started the season slow, but are finishing it strong. A lot of our games this year have been close and we have faced a lot of other team’s number one pitchers.”
“At one point, we were 4-5, but now we are 12-7. It is a step in the right direction. It is better to have a stretch of 8-2 at this point in the season than have a stretch of 5-5. We are playing really well right now. We play excellent defense and have pitchers who can throw strikes. We have excellent starting pitching and a deep bullpen.”
Norton, which has played well over the past week, dropped to 3-14 on the season.
“It was a well-played game,” said Norton manager David Bashaw. “Our kids showed up and played hard. That is all I can ask them to do. I want them to play hard and tough and they did that tonight. During our last three games, we have lost 3-1, 3-0 and 3-2. We have been in every game of late. And that is all you can ask for at this point in the season.”
It was another terrific pitcher’s duel on Thursday as Norton’s Thomas O’Leary battled Skip Flanagan of South Attleboro. Flanagan, the former Bishop Feehan standout, had one rough inning, but overcame that to get the victory. He went the distance, surrendering two runs and just two hits, while striking out three batters, walking two and hitting one.
“Skip did an excellent job getting first-pitch strikes,” said Maloof. “His last two starts have been great. When he throws first-pitch strikes, he does well. Skip threw 78 pitches total in this game and only had two walks. The last two games he has been right on.”
O’Leary had one of the two hits for Norton, lacing a single to left center in the fourth. Second baseman Nick Stanley had the second hit with a single to center the next inning.
O’Leary, who attends the Moses Brown School in Providence, was dominant over the first four, allowing just two base runners on an error and an infield single to former North Attleboro star Alex Witkus in the fourth. He had four strikeouts over the first four frames.
But O’Leary ran into trouble in the fifth and sixth innings and absorbed the loss. He went the distance, surrendering three runs and five hits. He struck out five and walked three.
“Tom had great command of his curveball,” said Bashaw. “He kept them off-balance with his curve. Tom had excellent command overall and didn’t walk a lot of people.”
Former Attleboro star Peter Cassidy went 2-for-3 with two singles for Post 312. He also reached on an error and scored a run. Witkus finished with a single, two steals and a run. Former Bombardier standout Zach George was 1-for-3 with an RBI double and a run. Former North Attleboro High product Zach Horton also had an RBI double in the game.
With the way O’Leary was pitching, Norton looked in prime position to break its three-game losing streak when the team plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Flanagan was actually his own worst enemy during the Norton rally, making a pair of errors that helped the hosts score their two runs. Bashaw opened the inning by being hit by a pitch and then O’Leary singled to left center. Center fielder Christian Delano laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Flanagan fired the ball past first baseman Jon Sousa. That allowed Bashaw to score, O’Leary to move to third and Delano to get to second base.
With O’Leary charging down the third-base line, Norton left-fielder and former Lancer captain Brian Fox then laid down a suicide-squeeze bunt, which Flanagan bobbled and dropped, allowing Fox to reach first base as O’Leary scored to make it 2-0.
“We did an excellent job executing in that inning,” said Bashaw.
However, Flanagan would settle right back down, getting three outs on a fly ball and a double play. And he would only allow a single and a walk over his final three innings.
South Attleboro began to chip away at O’Leary in the top of the fifth. Cassidy reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Horton cracked a double to right center, which scored Cassidy and cut the Post 312 deficit in half at 2-1.
South Attleboro would then plate two more runs in the top of the sixth. After reaching base on a fielder’s choice, Witkus proceeded to steal second base. George cracked a two-out double to the wall in left-center field to score Witkus and tie the game at 2-2. Cassidy then reached on an infield single with George hustling all the way around from second base on the play to score the lead run and give Post 312 a 3-2 advantage.
O’Leary would get out of a first-and-second, no-out situation in the top of the seventh inning by inducing a force out and then a double play to keep the game at 3-2.
“We don’t seem to hit early in the game, but our bats seem to come around later in games,” said Maloof. “Overall, we would like to be hitting the ball a little better.”
Norton took one more shot at tying the game in the bottom of the frame. Third baseman Dan Kehoe worked out a two-out walk with Russell Boudreau coming in to pinch-run. But Flanagan got the next batter to hit a grounder right back to him for the final out.
With still a chance to finish third and gain home-field advantage in next week’s playoffs, South Attleboro will travel to New Bedford to face Post 1 on Saturday night at 7.
Norton will look to thwart the plans of Somerset to win the district’s regular-season title. Norton will head to Somerset High on Friday night at 5:30 p.m. to face Post 228. Post 222 will then host Somerset on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at Norton Middle School.