SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

June 5, 2013

Squeezing By: Down six runs, Danvers baseball stuns Reading in extra innings to advance to semis

DANVERS — Dan Connors said he was on the Danvers High varsity baseball team his freshman and sophomore years primarily for one reason: he knew how to successfully bunt.

Old habits apparently don’t desert you when you need them most.

Connors dropped down a perfect suicide squeeze in the bottom of the ninth inning to plate teammate A.J. Couto with the game-winning run as Danvers — which trailed by six runs back in the third inning — completed a comeback for the ages, stunning Reading, 7-6, in this extra inning Division 2 North quarterfinal gem.

“You always have to be on your toes when you’re coached by Roger Day, so I went up to the plate thinking (squeezing) was definitely a possibility,” said Connors, the Northeastern Conference South MVP this season, said of his play that improbably won the game for the Falcons (20-3).

The UMass-Amherst bound, 6-foot-4 second baseman got the sign from Day on the first pitch against Reading reliever Sean O’Neill. He dropped down a perfect bunt in front of the mound as Couto (4 runs on the night) sped home, and he slid and got his hand over the plate before a play could by made by the visiting Rockets.

“We said, ‘let’s do this first pitch.’ We thought about going with a fake squeeze before deciding to do the real thing,” said Day, whose team executed the greatest playoff comeback in his 25-year coaching career in terms of having never come back from a six-run deficit beforehand. “One pitch, and just like that the game’s over.”

The second-seeded Falcons move on to the Division 2 North semifinals tomorrow night at Alumni Field in Lowell (7 p.m.), where they’ll take on 11th seeded Belmont (13-9) for the right to play in this weekend’s sectional final. It marks the Falcons’ sixth time having reached the North semifinals in the 21st century.

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