HOLDEN -- Last season, the Harvard Little Leaguers made progress by advancing to the semifinals of the Holden Invitational Tournament. This season, not only did they make the semifinals, they advanced to the championship game.
The Harvard boys held an early lead, but Southboro battled back after loading the bases in the fourth to take a 5-2 lead and ultimately, the title.
Harvard had a bit of difficulty fielding enough players to compete in the tournament, but younger kids were called up from the minor league program to give Harvard a fighting chance.
"They are a great group of kids," said head coach Joe Jarosz. "We had some minors kids come and fill in for us. They did awesome. They worked hard from game one until the last game, and we are all proud of them."
Right-handed hurler Andrew Hill toed the rubber for Harvard and his golden arm did not disappoint. Hill surrendered a bloop base-knock to Southboro leadoff hitter Daniel Goldstein, that squibbed through the right side of the infield for a single, but that was all Southboro could muster in the inning against the hard-throwing Hill.
Hill picked up a pair of strikeouts in the first inning, including a wicked heater that caught Nolan Kimball window-shopping for the final out. The Harvard club got its offense cooking early on in the first inning.
Standout shortstop Kindred Atwood belted the first pitch he saw into right field for a single. Clayton Hanlon sprayed a steaming RBI single into right center. Atwood romped home from second with the first run of the game, to give Harvard a 1-0 lead.
Hanlon and Charlie Bardenhauer, who reached on a walk, were left stranded on the bases, as Southboro starter Jack Brandon pulled the string on a strike three off-speed pitch to Connor Gothorpe for the final out. Hill was a one-man wrecking crew in the top of the second inning, as he had a hand in each of the three outs.
Hill caused Nicket Mauskar to dribble out to the mound, and he threw a perfect bullet over to first for the first out. Hill then made quick work of Jack Bayko and Anthony Massaglia, who both struck out for outs one and two of the frame. Hill was starting to settle into a groove, and so was the Harvard offense.
Lance Jarosz was retired to start the third on a pop-out to second. Atwood screamed a line drive into right field for a single. Hill waltzed into the batter's box and decided to help himself out with an RBI poke that skimmed down the right field line. Hill's single allowed Atwood to chug around the bases and make it 2-0 Harvard after three innings.
Harvard appeared to be in good shape heading into the fourth, but the Southboro bats came to life. Alex Nemon started the rally for the Southboro club with a little one-base flare into left field. Hill blew a heater by Kevin Harrington for the first out of the fourth.
The wheels started to fall off the bus for Harvard, as the inning pressed on. Goldstein reached and advanced to third safely on an errant throw. Back-to-back free-passes to O'Leary and Jeffrey Secrist loaded the bases and ended the evening for Hill.
Bordenhauer took over on the mound for Harvard and tried his best to mitigate the damage the Southboro offense had already inflicted
Kimball thumped a 2 RBI single to the right field wall to bring in Nemon and Goldstein to tie the game at 2-2. Southboro was not done; Mauskar stroked a one-out single through the right-side, which plated Secrist and Kimball to give Southboro its first lead of the night, 4-2.
Southboro hung one more run in the fourth, but Atwood flashed the leather with a diving catch to retire Boyko for the final out of the inning.
Trailing 5-2 after three-and-a-half, Harvard attempted to battle back in the late innings, but the rally was not meant to be.
"The other team is a good team," said Jarosz. "We just couldn't string anything together. Every time we seemed to get something going, they made a good defensive play and sort of thwarted our run. It has been a great tournament, and the kids had a blast."
Atwood (2-for-2, two runs scored), Clayton Hanlon (1-for-3, RBI) led the Harvard offense. Harvard finishes its Holden Invitational Tourney schedule with a record of 4-2.