WOBURN — The playoffs are a beast to handle at any level of sports. A team's season can conclude in either complete euphoria or in devastatingly cruel fashion — and Beverly's baseball squad was no exception to the latter on Friday afternoon.
The No. 13 Panthers were bested by No. 4 Woburn, 4-3, after 11 innings in their Division 2 North first round clash at Woburn Memorial High School.
Despite a game-tying triple by junior Nick McIntyre with two outs in the final frame and taking the lead after a Conor Hanlon RBI ground out in the top of the 11th, the Tanners walked it off after a two-out single with the bases loaded drove in the winning runs.
"No question they left everything out on the field," said first year head coach Jon Cahill. "It's tough to send the seniors (Colton Petrosino, Hanon, Kyle Camara, Matt Miller, Clayton McAlpine and Caeden Hale) out that way because you know some of them will never play competitively like this again ... losing in an 11-inning pitcher's duel is a tough way for these guys to go out."
Both hurlers — Beverly's Brayden Clark and Woburn's Ryan Qualey — spent the afternoon baffling batters and sending them to the benches scratching their heads. The two righties each had nine strikeouts while Clark surrendered just one earned run and Qualey yielded two. Clark also did an impressive job batting around four hits and five walks in seven innings of work to give the Panthers the chances they needed.
The lone run Clark was responsible for came off a sacrifice ground out, but a throwing error resulted in a second run crossing the plate and the Tanners taking an early 2-0 lead in the second inning. One of Woburn's strongest assets this season has been their base running which they used to pull off a double steal that set up the eventual two-run play.
"They are ultra-aggressive on the base paths and that was something we focused on coming in," revealed Cahill. "They took advantage of a few things we weren't prepared for, but it's a credit to our guys for bouncing back and not giving up."
After struggling to figure out Woburn's lanky fire-baller, the Panthers first got on the board in the fifth inning after Hanlon (1-for-4, two runs) scored off a sacrifice ground out by Owen Desmond (1-for-3, RBI). Hanlon also managed to find his way to second base by advancing off a strikeout to set up the tying run in the seventh.
"Our number one focus is quality at bats," said Cahill. "But we also want to take advantage of their mistakes which we needed to do today if we wanted a chance. I'm very proud of the guys for hanging in until the end and never giving up."
With Brayden Clark, Nick McIntyre, Tyler Petrosino and Shane Cassidy all slated to return next year the Panthers should be right back in the thick of the D2 North bracket. However, Cahill wants his players and coaching staff to take time to reflect on their season before getting back to work.
"Of course they want to get better right away," said Cahill. "But we need to look back at the season and see what went right or wrong before that. We're all eager to get in touch over the off-season and work toward getting better ... that's all we can do moving forward."