NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — After one of the most frustrating half innings of baseball any of them may ever play, the McCann Tech Hornets did not let their frustrations get the better of them.
McCann, which gave up a four-run lead in the top of the seventh inning, rallied for one in the bottom of the eighth to beat Blue Hills, 6-5, and advance to Friday’s championship game of the State Vocational Small School Division Championship.
“Everybody’s not perfect,” Matte said. “If I hit a kid or I walk a kid and they get a hit to score a run, I’m not worried. It’s just baseball. Baseball has a lot of ways to humble you. If you’re up, it will bring you down. When you’re down, it will bring you up.”
Matte struck out 15, and the Hornets took advantage of five Blue Hills errors to score five unearned runs.
And it looked like four of them would be enough before an improbable comeback by the visitors in the seventh.
It started with a leadoff single to left, and a hit batter and a single up the middle loaded the bases with nobody out.
But after a mound visit by coach Pat Ryan, Matte settled down and got the next two men swinging at a third strike.
Then things really got weird.
First, Matte surrendered his first walk of the game to a seven hitter who was 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts and a groundball to the mound on his resume. That made it 5-2. Then back-to-back errors in the infield allowed two more runs to score. Finally, a wild pitch allowed the fourth run of the inning to tie the game.
Ryan took the blame for his team losing a bit of focus early in the seventh.
“It unfortunately got to where it did that inning,” he said. “We played comfortably. We’re up 5-1, it’s going to be a little stroll. All of a sudden, they started creeping back in, and we decided, ‘Now we’re going to press.’ It’s a little late then.
“My job as a coach is to keep these kids up as best I can. It’s tough. They’re young kids. It’s the hardest part of the job. Coaching the sport is the easiest. Keeping the kids in the game is the toughest.
“But we didn’t get down.”
McCann Tech built its four-run lead by using speed on the basepaths and putting pressure on a short-handed Blue Hills defense.
In the bottom of the first, Michael Ferrara reached on an error, stole second and raced home from there when an infield error allowed Logan Tower to reach base.
In the second, Jeremy Beany led off with a single, advanced on Matt Jette’s sacrifice bunt and scored on a passed ball and a wild pitch to make it 2-0.
The visitors from Canton got one run back in the top of the fourth, but the Hornets added insurance in the fifth with a pair of runs.
Tower reached on a walk and stole second then reached third when Jacob Field reached on a two-base error. Then a wild and a passed ball allowed both Tower and Field to score and make it 4-1.
In the sixth, Ferrara walked, stole second and came home on an error on a ground ball to the right side by Caleb Rondeau.
Meanwhile, McCann’s Matte pitched his way out of trouble throughout the middle innings.
After cruising through the first two with four strikeouts and just one baserunner, Matte surrendered two infield singles and a walk in the third but left the bases loaded when he fielded a comebacker to the mound and tossed home for the third out.
It was one of five defensive plays that Matte made in addition to the 15 Ks, meaning he was a part of 20 of Blue Hills’ 24 outs.
Matte said he doesn’t see fielding his position as a particular strength of his game.
“I have a lot trust in my defense,” he said. “If a ball is hit toward me, I’ll throw my glove at it and see if I can knock it down. But I’m not always looking to field the ball myself. I let my teammates do that.”
He stranded two runners in the fourth and two more in fifth.
In the eighth, Blue Hills put men on second and third with one out, but Matte struck out the last two men to get McCann Tech to the bottom of the frame.
Blue Hills retired the first two, but James Hamilton reached on an error and stole second. Then Ferrara’s ground ball to the left side was fielded cleanly, but the throw to first sailed wide, allowing Hamilton to scamper home and secure the win.