WOBURN — Marblehead baseball skipper Mike Giardi cited his squad's blue-collared identity as a reason they found themselves seven outs away from advancing past Woburn in their Monday afternoon Division 2 North quarterfinal clash.
"We have a lot of athletes on this team who've worked hard to manufacture runs this season," said Giardi. "We've made a point to put together quality at bats and do everything we can to get on the base paths."
Leadoff man Godot Gaskins best exemplified this in the top of third by stealing second and proceeding to advance home thanks to ground outs by Chris Gally and Erik Gonzalez (RBI) to give the Magicians a one-run lead they carried into the fifth inning.
However, Woburn pulled even in the bottom half of the frame with a two-out RBI single and eventually walked-off after an RBI double pushed the Tanners past Marblehead by a score of 4-3 at Woburn Memorial High school.
Senior Aidan Michaud provided the majority of the Magicians' offense with a two-run blast in the second inning while Ben Brennan also had a single along with Brady Lavender.
"That was actually only our second home run of the year," revealed Giardi. "We've been working all year with 'Big A' following all the way through and hitting the ball ... but sometimes guys try to get big after seeing a home run and I think that's what happened."
Giardi's educated guess was an accurate one. Woburn's Aidan Vining settled down to help the No. 4 seed Tanners (16-6) advance to the North semi's. He struck out five batters in a row after Woburn tied it up, and the right-handed hurler went on to sit down nine batters in a row before walking Jacob Bornstein in the top of the seventh.
"He did a good job of keeping us off balance," said Giardi, whose team ends the year 14-8. "We weren't able to put them in enough pressure situations because of that; and on the flip side I feel like we were constantly dealing with situations like that ... but I told the guys after the game how proud I am of them battling until the end because a lot of people didn't expect to see us at this level."
Despite the Tanners walking off with the victory, Marblehead starting pitcher sophomore Ben Weed did everything he could to buy his squad the time it needed to put up runs. The right hander put in four innings of work, surrendered two runs (one earned), struck out three, walked two and scattered five hits.
"Ben did a nice job for us today," said Giardi. "He battled hard and so did Ryan Masters (2 IP, 2 K, 2 BB, 1 ER) who could have maybe gone another inning ... but he's been dealing with a tough injury and it's never worth a kid's future just to get a W."
Marblehead rattled off five straight wins at the end of their regular season, defeated a respectable Burlington squad in the opening round and nearly pulled off the quarterfinal upset against Woburn. While Giardi wants his seniors to be proud of what they accomplished during their careers, he has a different message for the underclassmen.
"They should be a little upset," said a candid Giardi. "That's how you get better — you learn from tough losses like this, go into the offseason to try and get better and make sure we aren't in a situation like this next year. It's about how they respond from here."