Division 1 baseball: Northampton takes its best shot in loss to Leominster

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  • Northampton’s Max Callan, left, helps fellow senior Eddie Sarafin off the field after the last out in the Blue Devils’ 5-3 loss to Leominster in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton coach Ryan Parent listens to the explanation from the umpire who called senior Jack Power, left, out for stepping on the plate on a foul ball in the fifth inning of the Blue Devils 5-3 loss to Leominster in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday, July 2, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior Eddie Sarafin, left, and juniors Brady McDonald (5) and Jackson Kelleher-Mochak (33) leave the outfield after a post-game talk from coach Ryan Parent following the Blue Devils 5-3 loss to Leominster in a Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday, July 2, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Northampton dugout tries to rattle Leominster’s pitcher as senior Eddie Sarafin, right, steps to the plate with two outs in the seventh inning of the Blue Devils 5-3 loss in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday, July 2, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton’s Max Callan, left, helps fellow senior Eddie Sarafin off the field after the last out in the Blue Devils’ 5-3 loss to Leominster in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton's Jack Power, right, is met at the plate by fellow senior Eddie Sarafin after scoring from second on a Wilson Heath single to put the Blue Devils on the board first in the first inning of a 5-3 loss to Leominster in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior catcher Jack Power, left, and junior third baseman Trevor Maslowski, right, put the squeeze on Leominster runner Sean Whitney-Dutton to end the second inning of the Blue Devils 5-3 loss in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday, July 2, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior third baseman Trevor Maslowski (35) vaults over Leominster runner Sean Whitney-Dutton after tagging him with a toss from senior catcher Jack Power, left, on a squeeze play to end the second inning of the Blue Devils 5-3 loss in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday, July 2, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Leominster's Ryan Fava (1) beats the throw to Northampton senior first baseman Wilson Heath for a single in the fifth inning of the Blue Devils 5-3 loss in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday, July 2, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton coach Ryan Parent meets briefly with junior Nate Kelleher-Mochak, left, senior Jack Power and junior Dominic Badorini (12) while Leominster brings in a fresh pitcher in the seventh inning of the Blue Devils 5-3 loss in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday, July 2, 2021. Kelleher-Mochak was on second base, Power on first and Badorini at bat. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior starting pitcher Seth Finnessey delivers to Leominster's Eamon Durkan in the second inning of the Blue Devils 5-3 loss in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday, July 2, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior pitcher Nate Kelleher-Mochak delivers to a Leominster batter in the sixth inning of the Blue Devils 5-3 loss in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior starting pitcher Seth Finnessey delivers to a Leominster batter in the first inning of the Blue Devils 5-3 loss in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday, July 2, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior starting pitcher Seth Finnessey delivers to Leominster's Eamon Durkan in the second inning of the Blue Devils 5-3 loss in their Division 1 state semifinal held at Auburn High School on Friday, July 2, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 7/2/2021 4:51:32 PM

AUBURN — Northampton gave itself a chance in Friday’s MIAA Division 1 baseball state semifinal.

The Blue Devils loaded the bases against Leominster trailing by three runs with one out in the top of the seventh inning. Nate Kelleher-Mochak walked, Jack Power wore a pitch and Dominic Badorini also drew a walk. That brought Wilson Heath, who already had two hits, to the plate. He put the ball in play and drove in a run with a ground out, leaving runners at second and third with two outs for Edward Sarafin.

The Central Mass. champs managed to get a strikeout, ending the game 5-3 and sending Leominster to its first state final since 2014 – a victory over Norwood. The Leominster Blue Devils will face Xaverian Brothers at 4 p.m. Monday for the championship.

Northampton was appearing in its first state semifinal since the mid-1990s, but the Blue Devils weren’t rattled by the moment or the circumstances of starting, stopping, changing fields or playing in a damp drizzle. The game was originally scheduled for Wednesday in Leominster but couldn’t start due to power outage issues and field conditions. They made sure it was worth the wait.

With one out in the top of the first, Power walked then reached second after a pickoff throw skipped by the Leominster first baseman. A Badorini strikeout followed, then Heath went to the opposite field for a single that brought Power around for a 1-0 lead.

“I was treating it like any other game. Obviously it’s a big game, but I tried to stay cool and not let the pressure get to me,” Heath said.

Leominster responded with the next five runs. In the bottom of the first, Tyler Smith and Sean Dutton began with back to back singles. Evan McCarthy reached on an error that scored a run. Power threw him out at second for the first out. After a walk, Northampton starter Seth Finnessey ended the threat with a strikeout and a ground out.

Northampton’s Trevor Maslowski walked to open the second, and that ended Leominster starter Brandon Arsenault’s day. Freshman Angel Baez was called from the bullpen and answered beyond his years. Baez allowed one hit in 5⅓ innings of relief to earn the win, striking out three.

“He has complete composure. For a 14-year-old kid to come out and battle like that, if he keeps working he can be a special player,” Leominster coach Rich Barnaby said of Baez.

He induced a Nate Kelleher-Mochak fly out then dodged a missile from Power. Northampton’s senior catcher, a LIU commit, demolished a ball to right field on a day built to keep balls in the park. It swung just foul with the wind despite protests from the Northampton faithful down the line.

“I hooked it a little bit. Got off the end of the bat a little bit,” Power said. “Missed it a little bit. Not much you can do.”

He struck out to end the at bat and the inning, but it put Leominster on notice.

“He’s a different player. You can tell he’s a college baseball player,” Barnaby said of Power. “We learned a lot from that swing.”

Leominster took the lead in the bottom of the second. Finnessey hit Eamon Durkan, then Nico Martinez walked, prompting a mound visit from Northampton coach Ryan Parent. Ryan Fava popped out, then Smith laced a RBI single to put Leominster ahead, 2-1.

Dutton followed with a two-run triple for some breathing room. He was ultimately caught in a pickle between third and home later in the inning after some subterfuge by Power and Finnessey, who were trying to throw out McCarthy (walk) at first before snapping a throw back down the third base line that put Dutton in the rundown.

A big inning like that might have discouraged most teams. Northampton kept at it. Heath laced an opposite field double just inside the right field line, then moved to third on a Sarafin ground out. He scored on a wild pitch to bring Northampton within 4-2.

Leominster added an insurance run in the sixth. A walk and an error followed by a ground out put runners on second and third. Baez helped his own cause with an RBI ground out that pushed the lead to 5-2 before Northampton’s final three outs.

Despite the groove Baez was in — he retired Northampton in order in the top of the fourth and fifth and allowed just one walk in the sixth — Western Massachusetts’ Blue Devils buckled down in the seventh.

“They have a competitive culture and a competitive attitude. They’re not willing to give up or settle,” Northampton coach Ryan Parent said. “This could have turned into a 9-1 game, 9-2 game, and they didn’t let it. They fought through. A foot here or there on our hits and it’s a different game. They kept fighting.”

Despite the loss, Northampton was able to keep the success of the season in perspective. 

“Our goal was to win Western Mass., anything past that was a bit of extra. We really wanted to win this game, but I think we’re going to be happy,” Power said. “Twenty five years is a long time. We’re happy to bring it back to Northampton.”

Parent hopes that what the Blue Devils accomplished this season can set the new standard at Northampton.

“They should be proud. I don’t want this to be a fluke,” Parent said. “Going forward, this becomes the norm like it was in the ’90s coming to this thing at least every couple years. That’s what I want.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.




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