PEABODY — The shot off Dan Dempsey’s bat in the top of the seventh was hot enough to send Middleton trotting towards new life in an American Legion Zone 5A playoff at Bezemes Diamond yesterday.
Instead, it was caught.
Lowell third baseman Brock Riley made an outstanding stabbing catch, then stepped on third for a double play to close out his team’s 6-4 win over Middleton. The decision sends Lowell to this weekend’s state playoffs in Norwood and ends District 8 champion Middleton’s summer at 18-8-1.
“A few inches left or right and it’s a tie game,” Middleton manager John Kowalski said. “The difference in the game was a couple of bounces, no doubt, and that’s a perfect example. You have to applaud the play (Riley) made and tip your cap.”
Newburyport won the other Zone 5 bracket and will also advance to the state tournament.
Middleton loaded the bases in the sixth and could’ve tied the game when Edison Thayer hit a blooping shot to center. It was falling fast, but Lowell’s Tyler Schermerhorn made a diving catch to end the inning and save the runs.
“Out of everybody in the park, Scherm might have been the only one who thought he could catch that,” Lowell manager Mike McLeod said.
Throwing on just two days of rest after going eight innings in Middleton’s playoff opener Sunday, Bobby Woodworth was sharp in a gutsy performance. The righty with a biting curve scattered eight hits, struck out five, walked two and hit one; he stranded a pair in scoring position in the sixth to send his team back to plate trailing by just two.
“Bobby’s fantastic. He’s been a great leader as our No. 1 pitcher, and he’s the kind of kid that wants the ball every day,” said Kowalski. “He’d pitch every day if I let him — and he has the arm to do it.”