By Dan Harrison
---- — PEABODY — The Middleton Legion baseball team didn’t show up in the Zone 5 winner’s bracket final against Lowell last night, and it appeared the team’s summer would come to an end when the group went down by four runs against Billerica in the loser’s bracket final that followed.
Eventually, though, something fired up Middleton, which scored four runs in the sixth and two in the ninth to claim a 6-5 comeback win over Billerica to advance to a rematch against Lowell-which defeated Middleton 12-2 in five innings earlier in the evening.
“I’m pleased the way they rallied,” said Middleton coach John Kowalski. “The first game was a tough one but we rebounded. It took us a few innings, but I’m pleased that the boys dug deep and hung in there on a tough night and played until the very last out.”
Sam Hamburger scored the game-tying run on a RBI by Bobby Woodworth in the ninth inning before Woodworth scored the game-winner when the Billerica left fielder misplayed a Tom Budrewicz fly ball to end the game.
Budrewicz went seven innings on the mound before Greg Jain threw 1 2/3 innings. Woodworth came in to get the final out of the top of the ninth.
The team will now have to beat Lowell twice to advance out of Zone 5.
Before the comeback against Billerica, Middleton was blasted by Lowell in a game that saw the home team struggle on the mound and in the field.
“It’s unusual. We’ve had a great season and the boys have been ready to play most nights,” said Kowalski. “Lowell’s a very good team and we weren’t there mentally. It was going to take our best effort to compete and we weren’t in the frame of mind to do so.”
Lowell jumped all over Middleton. outscoring the home team 11-1 in the first three innings.
“The bats were working. (Middleton) gave us some walks and that jump-started us,” said Lowell head coach Mike McLeod. “Then the bats came out.”
Middleton starter Ethan Dyer walked three hitters in the first inning and Lowell made the right-hander pay, loading the bases at least once each of the first three innings. Zach Duval relieved Dyer and gave up just a run, but since Middleton only scored two runs in the first five innings the 10-run mercy rule took effect.
Catcher Mike Manni had a big RBI double scoring Budrewicz in the first before Jain added a RBI in the fifth. Duval, who is usually a reserve, pitched well for Middleton considering the team needed someone to eat up innings saving the better pitching for the nightcap against Billerica with a rematch against Lowell on the line.
“Zach has been a junior Legion player, but we needed to conserve pitching,” said Kowalski. “He came in and threw strikes and did a nice job.”