SAUGUS — Get an early lead and try to hang on was the script that the Essex Tech baseball team had written for itself in a valiant upset bid against No. 5 seed Saugus in Sunday's Division 3 North baseball playoffs.
Northeastern Conference MVP Todd Trangale was the big-time studio executive on this day, however, ripping up that script and writing a new one that he liked better.
On two occasions, Trangale took to the pitcher's mound from the outfield with runners in scoring position and stranded them there. In the eighth inning, he came around to score the winning run on a throwing error as the Sachems walked off with a 3-2 extra inning win at World Series Park.
"Our mantra the whole year has been to try prove people wrong. I think we showed that Tech schools are a tough out in this tournament," said Essex Tech head coach Jed Beauparlant, whose team beat Watertown less than 24 hours earlier in the opening round.
Senior captain Chris Masta threw the entire game for the Hawks (12-11), scattering six hits and striking out six without being charged with an earned run. His full count pitch to plunked Trangale to lead off the eighth, though, and after Saugus' 11th stolen base of the game moved him into scoring position, Ryan Beliveau dropped a bunt to move him to third.
When the throw to first sailed into the outfield, Trangale trotted home to send the Sachems (15-6) to Monday's sectional quarterfinal at Bishop Fenwick (4 p.m.).
"Give Essex Tech a lot of credit. We had to manufacture runs with the bunts down that third base line. All year long, we've been a small ball team. Bunting pays off," said Saugus head coach Joe Luis.
"Their pitcher (Masta) did a great job. He battled. He didn't really walk anybody."
Masta's sacrifice fly in the first sent him to the hill with a 1-0 lead. His hit scored Ben Condon, who'd doubled off Saugus starter Jason Casaletto (5 1/3 total innings, 8 strikeouts).
Essex Tech doubled its lead when Jacob Granata's double plated Dylan Christianson, who got to second on a dropped strikeout.
Freshman Ryan McMahon dropped in a bunt single to load the bases with one out. That's when Luis brought in Trangale, who got out of the jam on three pitches by picking off the runner at third and fanning the batter.
After Saugus tied it 2-2 on an error (put in play by, who else, Trangale) in the fifth, Saugus sent Casaletto back to the hill. He held Essex Tech scoreless until McMahon doubled to lead off the seventh. Once again, Trangale came on and put down the next six in a row to snare the win.
"It's nice to have a guy like that in your back pocket," said Luis, whose hard-throwing ace got six of his seven outs via the K. "Jason was great; his slider was really on, but because it's a single elimination tournament I had to go to Todd to put out a couple of those fires."
Masta did a good job putting out fires of his own. He stranded nine Saugus baserunners, eight of them in scoring position (mostly due to the Sachems' 11 swipes). Masta got out of a bases loaded jam in both the third and fourth innings and left runners at the corners in the sixth; when his low curveball was snapping, he was impossible to hit.
"The kind of kid Chris is, the kind of leader he is. He's going feel like (the loss) in on him," said Beauparlant. "He gave us everything he had. He left it all out there. We needed to execute a little bit better offensively for him."
Jack Christianson went all seven innings the day before in Essex Tech's win over Watertown, allowing ace Masta to be fresh for Sunday's upset bid. Masta had three hits in that 7-3 victory, the Hawks' first ever in the state tournament since the school opened.
McMahon had two hits for the Hawks and R.J. Pallazola had one, but the 13 total strikeouts made it tough to move runners along.
For Saugus, Anthony Cogliano had a pair of hits, and Joey Dusabalo's double was the only hit among their six to go for extra bags.
After the winning run scored, the teams had to be separated by coaches when a couple of players exchanged words and blows. Order was quickly restored with no ejections as the game was over and the officials had departed.
"It's not how I coach and it's not how I want to remember this year," said Beauparlant. "It's unfortunate."
"I know that's not that they're about. It's not what we're about. It's frustration. I understand it, in the heat of the moment," Luis said. "That's what happened, but it was a good game. A great game."