Though Senerchia Post 74 fell short of the state championship, its run through the loser’s bracket was a memorable one. After staying alive with a win over rival New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43 last Wednesday, Senerchia beat R&R Construction 5-2 on Thursday then won a marathon, 11-inning game by a 14-13 score over Upper Deck Post 86/14 on Friday.
The two victories had very different scripts, but the common thread was Senerchia finding a way to win.
“I can’t be prouder of them,” manager Chris Sheehan said after Friday’s win.
On Thursday, Senerchia used dominant pitching to oust third-seeded R&R Construction. Jake Newberry took a shutout into the sixth and ended up allowing just two runs in six-plus innings. He struck out four and scattered seven hits. Dan Thadeio pitched the final three innings for the save.
Newberry, a Hendricken graduate this spring, didn’t see a lot of innings for the Hawks but has been working to build up his arm strength for an opportunity like the one he got on Thursday.
“Newberry did a great job,” Sheehan said. “We watched that team play last night and the kid that pitched against them was a lot like Newberry. We thought he would have some success against them, and he did. He pitched a great game. He kept them off-balance and that’s his game.”
Newberry started strong, striking out two batters looking in the first inning. He didn’t allow a hit until the third – and promptly erased the base-runner on a 5-4-3 double play.
“When I was warming up, I had my curveball on and my slider on,” Newberry said. “I was hitting my spots. First inning, I struck out a couple of batters and I felt good. I just came out and did my best. I had my team to back me up out there.”
Senerchia gave Newberry an early lead with a run in the top of the first. Rob Henry singled and later came around on an error. In the third, Senerchia made it 3-0 thanks to a sacrifice fly by Mike King and an RBI single by Gian Martellini.
R&R finally put something together against Newberry with three straight hits in the sixth inning, including a two-run double by Anthony Serina. But Newberry got two quick fly-outs to end the inning. Senerchia then padded its lead on a two-run single by John Willette.
In the seventh, R&R threatened again and loaded the bases against Thadeio after an error on a potential double-play ball. Thadeio buckled down, though, getting a force-out at home, a force at second and a ground-out to the shortstop.
“Thadeio got out of a big jam there,” Sheehan said. “He took us off the hook.”
Thadeio worked around a walk and a single in the eighth before coasting through a perfect ninth to seal the victory.
On Friday, Senerchia matched up with Upper Deck Post 86/14, the highest seed still remaining in the tournament. After falling behind 1-0 in the second inning, Senerchia scored three in the fourth to take the lead and added two more runs in the top of the fifth to go up 5-1. In the bottom of the fifth, though, Upper Deck tied the game with four runs.
That back-and-forth sequence was nothing.
Over the final three innings, the teams scored eight runs apiece, including five each in the ninth. Senerchia had gone up 13-8 in the top half before Upper Deck miraculously came back to tie it in the bottom half.
“That was the craziest baseball game I’ve ever seen,” Sheehan said.
But Senerchia found a way to win it.
In the 11th inning, Rob Henry singled, move to second on a sacrifice bunt and stole third. He scored on a ground ball by Gian Martellini.
Kyle Barbato, the sixth Senerchia pitcher of the day, worked two scoreless innings and sealed the deal once Senerchia got the lead.
“They never gave in,” Sheehan said. “We blew a five-run lead in the last inning and they didn’t quit. They could have laid down and said ‘That’s it. We lost.’ But they never did.”
Senerchia had its share struggles, most notably the 16 walks its pitchers issued. On the other side, Upper Deck committed seven errors. The game lasted more than four hours.
But in the end, Senerchia celebrated.
“Every inning they scored, we came back and scored,” Sheehan said. “It was such a team effort. Every person had a part in that game.”
Senerchia scored many of its runs thanks to aggressive base-running. The team stole seven bases and took extra bases wherever it could get them. Several of Upper Deck’s errors came because Senerchia was forcing the issue.
“That’s our game,” Sheehan said. “We wanted to make them throw the ball around. We really preach aggressive base-running and the guys did a great job with that today.”
Upper Deck had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, but with five runs already in, reliever Sam Boulanger stranded the winning run on second when he induced a ground ball to Matt Murphy at second.
Barbato then kept things where they were, wiggling out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th. In the 11th, Upper Deck got a leadoff single, but Barbato retired the next three in order, stranding the tying run at third base.
“I can’t say enough about Barbato,” Sheehan said. “He had thrown one inning in the playoffs. He came in and won the game for us.”
Murphy led the offense with three hits and four RBI. Henry went 3-for-4 with three runs scored, King went 3-for-4, Martellini knocked in two runs and Brady Chant and Kevin Sutyla had two hits each.
After the dramatic victory, Senerchia was eliminated on Saturday by Gershkoff Auto Body/Auburn Post 20.