Methuen Rangers Baseball '23

Sun, Jun 11, 2023 12:00 PM @ Central Catholic
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Final
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Central Catholic 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 2

Rangers roll into Final Four

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Sunday, June, 11 By Jeff Hamrick

HAVERHILL – When Matt Pappalardo went to the plate in the top of the sixth Sunday afternoon, he couldn’t be sure how many more at bats he might have left in his stellar career.

Thanks to the ensuing triple the Methuen senior blasted and a couple more shut-down innings he and Owen Sullivan provided, the upstart Rangers not only have more swings coming their way, they’ll be taking them in a place they’ve never been before.

Methuen, seeded 21st in the Division 1 tourney, pulled off its third consecutive road upset, knocking off No. 4 Central Catholic 4-2 in front of a full house at Trinity Stadium and sending the Rangers to the program’s first Final Four. Having already knocked off the 12th, fifth and fourth seeds, Methuen (14-9) next gets top-seeded Franklin at a time and place to be determined.

To still be playing in the middle of June is an amazing turnaround from the end of April.

“I haven’t slept in two weeks,” Methuen coach Cam Roper said after his team won its ninth straight and 13th in the past 15. “These guys are unbelievable. From 1-7 (through eight games) to here. Cinderella, Snow White, call us whatever you want. We’re a hell of a baseball team … We found it around game 10. We were playing good baseball early; the little breaks weren’t going our way. These guys came together.”

And they’ve been clutch while winning three tourney games by a combined five runs. That was never more evident than the sixth, when the Rangers greeted Central’s Francisco Melendez, who began the inning in place of starter Josh Florence, who had allowed two earned runs on only three hits.

After an Owen Kneeland drag-bunt single, Pappalardo’s triple deep to right on the next pitch broke the 2-2 tie. Sullivan would later walk and score on a wild pitch.

“I was just looking for a pitch to drive,” said Pappalardo, who had walked and grounded into the first of Central’s two double plays his previous at bats. “I knew momentum was on our side when Owen got that bunt down. I was looking for first-pitch fastball and got my pitch. I squared it up.”

Taking the mound in the bottom of the inning, Pappalardo struck out the side on 12 pitches, completing his work on the mound with eight strikeouts and four walks on three hits and two earned runs.

“He was at 105 and had 10 pitches left,” Roper said of his starter. “That was the decision, going into the sixth inning and then planning to give Owen a clean inning (to start) the seventh. Matty did look so good in the sixth that the pitching coach and I did have to have a conversation. But we trust them both. For a brief moment we thought about leaving (Pappalardo) in there, but it got squashed quickly.”

Sullivan, who picked up saves against Andover and Xaverian in the first two rounds made quick work of the Raiders in the seventh, striking out two of the three he faced.

“I know I’m here for a reason,” said Sullivan, who came in from shortstop. “We haven’t beaten (Central) ever since I’ve been in high school. Going out in the bottom of the seventh and ahead 4-2, I’m on the bump and I’m like amped up. There’s nothing better than this.”

The bottom of the Ranger order provided a fourth-inning lead when No. 8 hitter Drew Lachance laced a lead-off single. Joey Pride then delivered his second big double of the tournament, ripping a three-two pitch to left center. Courtesy runner Alex Santiago and Pride trotted home on an Owen Kneeland one-out single.

“They’ve been unbelievable,” Roper said of Lachance and Pride. “Joey’s a second lead-off guy in the nine hole. He’s done it twice. Today, he was supposed to put a (sacrifice) bunt down. He did the same thing against Andover. Doesn’t get that done and then drives a double over the left fielder’s head in Andover and a double over the center fielder’s today. It’s a testament to the mental toughness of this group.”

Central, which had won four straight and 13 of its past 14, tied the score in the bottom of the fourth on just one hit when a Will Norris ground ball plated Jeremy Delacruz, who had doubled, and another fielder’s choice drove in Florence who had walked.

“It’s a crash landing,” Sexton said of the sudden end to an outstanding 21-4 season. “And it’s not a group I’m ready to say goodbye to yet, but that’s going to have to happen. You have to give credit to Methuen. They were the better team today. Those two (Methuen pitchers) are veteran kids and both very good. They pitched with great tenacity today.”

That tenacity has left Methuen the sole survivor among the old North Regional teams left in the new state-wide tournament.


“We’ve been talking about it at practice,” Sullivan said of the team’s finishing kick. “This is history. We have a job to do. Since this run started, whatever you want to call it, Cinderella story or whatever, we’re just a good baseball team. There’s no story behind it. We just clicked. We’re unstoppable, man. The train is rolling.”

Game Statistics:

Massachusetts Division 1 Round of 8

Methuen (4): Ronnal Marizan lf 4-0-0, Owen Kneeland 2b 3-1-2, Matt Pappalardo p/ss 3-0-1, Joey Tavares cr 0-1-0, Owen Sullivan ss/p 2-1-0, Daremin Escano Vargas rf 2-0-0, G'Andrey Canario 1b 3-0-0, TJ Mullen dh 3-0-0, Miguel Lopez 3b 0-0-0, Drew Lachance c 3-0-1, Alex Santiago cr 0-1-0, Joe Pride cf 2-1-1. Totals 25-4-5

Central Catholic (2): Josh Florence p/cf 3-0-0, Alexander Iannessa cr 0-1-0, Will Norris rf 3-0-2, Nathan Kearney 1b 3-0-0, Brady Rickenbach c 2-0-0, Jack Gavriel cr 0-0-0, Jack Savio dh 3-0-0, Conner McNamara cf 0-0-0, Charlie Antonopoulos 3b 2-0-0, Tyler Normandie lf 3-0-0, Sean Mercuri 2b 2-0-0, Jeremy Delacruz 2-1-1. Totals 23-2-3

RBI: Kneeland 2, Pappalardo; Norris, Kearney. 2B: Pride; Delacruz. 3B: Pappalardo. SB: Pride; Meruri, Kearney.

WP: Pappalardo; Sv: Sullivan; LP: Francisco Melendez

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