Even with New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43 doing everything it could, there wasn’t much that could stop the bat of Brendan Cabral.
Cabral’s wall-ball in the bottom of the seventh inning gave Hurd Auto Mall a 3-2 walk-off win over NEFL and, importantly for Hurd, it gave it a bye through the first-round of the upcoming league playoffs.
“Getting right into the second round is huge,” Canton, the Hurd manager, said. “To sit back and have the teams bang heads over the weekend, especially in the hot weather, is definitely an advantage, and then they’ll come into that next series with some banged up pitchers and we’ll be well rested.”
Hurd came out like a team on a mission, striking early with a run in the bottom of the first inning on a Matt Barnes single that scored Evan Cabral.
Barnes went 2-for-4 in the game, with an RBI, but he was picked off of second base to end Hurd’s threat in the first.
On the other side of things, Kyle Pheland took the mound for Hurd knowing the job that needed to be done.
“It was a huge game, we needed that bye,” Pheland said. “I really wanted to do it for the older guys and (Cantone). They got all the way to the finals last year and lost late in the game. They deserve to get there again.”
Pheland put together a complete game four-hitter, and all of the four NEFL hits came in the fourth inning where NEFL would score its only runs.
After retiring nine out of 10 hitters in the first three innings, only mixing in one walk, Pheland gave up a single and a double to Don McGuirl and Zach Blanchard, respectively, to start the fourth frame.
Next up for NEFL was Branden Hoxsie, and he proceeded to single to center field, driving in McGuirl to tie the game at one. Then, with Blanchard on third and Hoxsie at second, Ryan Rix singled to center field as well, scoring Blanchard to give NEFL a 2-1 lead.
Rix, however, would be the last NEFL player to reach base for the rest of the game.
Pheland would go on to retire the final 12 batters that he faced, completing his day going seven innings, giving up four hits, two earned runs, gathering a walk and a strikeout each and doing it all on 90 pitches total.
Hurd’s offense wasted little time with its efforts to tie the game.
The soon-to-be hero of the night Brendan Cabral led off the bottom of the fourth with a line drive double to right field off of Rix, NEFL’s second pitcher of the night.
Zach Tillman stepped up with Cabral in scoring position and hit an even harder line drive to center field for an RBI double, tying the game at two.
Hurd threatened again in the fourth as it loaded the bases, but Rix forced Cam Simpson to ground a 2-0 pitch back up the middle for a rare 1-2-3 double play.
Neither team would do damage in the fifth or sixth innings, and after Pheland rolled through the NEFL hitters in the seventh on just four pitches, the stage was set for Hurd to send itself into the league semifinals.
And it did just that.
Zach Blanchard, who had worked through the previous two innings unharmed, returned to the mound for NEFL in the seventh and retired two of the first three batters.
However, mixed in-between the two out was a six-pitch walk to Evan Cabral, which would turn out to be one of three costly mistakes for NEFL in the final inning.
After a wild pitch allowed Cabral to advance to second, Blanchard had a chance to finish the inning against Barnes, who already had two hits and an RBI.
Barnes worked the count full, but swung and missed at what should have been strike three. However, the ball was in the dirt and bounced away from Ted Dwyer, the NEFL catcher.
When Dwyer came up to throw Barnes out at first, which would have ended the inning and sent the game to extras, he instead turned and tried to run down Cabral who was on his way to third base. Dwyer pump faked to third, then turned to first, but it was too late, as the speedy Barnes had already reached.
fter a mound meeting with the entire NEFL infield, Blanchard had to face the older of the two Cabral brothers on the Hurd squad, and Brendan took care of business.
Cabral took a 1-2 pitch and ripped it to the deepest part of the park in straight away centerfield, allowing his brother Evan to score and sending Hurd straight to the Legion semifinal series
The series begins on July 26, where it will receive the No. 4 seed and will face the team who comes out of the preliminary round as the No. 5 seed at McCarthy Stadium.
NEFL, on the other hand, does not have as much time off. It will host game one of their preliminary round series against the RI Reds/Post 29 squad on July 22nd.