SUDBURY - At this time last week, the Panthers had just two wins to their name, but something remarkable happened - they started to gel. Ayer-Shirley found its way into the trophy weekend of the Bay State Tournament of Champions, held Saturday at Featherland Park in Sudbury.
Ayer-Shirley's semifinal opponent, Waltham, lost Friday evening to Newton-2 and thought its season was over. But, a call late Friday night allowed Waltham a second chance, due to the Newton-2 team's inability to field a team.
Ayer-Shirley took advantage of Waltham's groggy pitchers and exploded for 14 runs on 14 hits to mercy the visitors after four innings, 14-0.
Ayer-Shirley starting pitcher, Connor Brown, put on a clinic. Brown fanned the first batter of the game, Larry Sexton, on a wicked curveball that nibbled the outside corner. The curveball caught Sexton by surprise and sent him down looking for the first out.
Three-hole hitter Kaiske Fujio caught up to a fastball and cranked a laser just behind the first base bag. Ayer-Shirley first baseman Andrew Consalvo made a diving stop, but could not get back to the bag in time, as Fujio scampered aboard with an infield single. Next, Brown blew a fastball by Shane Saulnier for the final out of the inning.
Ayer-Shirley gave itself a nice cushion in the bottom of the first inning, as they belted out four runs on three hits.
Consalvo chopped a ball to the left-side of the infield, and he was able to beat the throw at first. Brown connected on a 2 RBI single up the middle to bring across both Hunt and Woodland.
Peter Schiavone hammered in a pair of runs on a single to deep right center field, which plated Consalvo and Jake Fowler, who also singled in the inning.
Ayer-Shirley held a 4-0 lead after one-inning, and Brown continued to work the strike-zone in the top-of-the-second. Brown took care of business on his own in the top of the second. Brown struck out the bottom-third of the Waltham line-up, including a filthy curveball that caught Ryan Noonan looking for the final-out.
Saulnier was dealing in the second inning, as he whiffed the first batter he faced in the inning. Woodland picked up a one-out bloop single to left field, but he was caught stealing at third on a great throw by the catcher Nick Samius. Then, Saulnier then proceeded to strike out Hunt for the final out of the frame.
Fujio picked up the lone single for Waltham in the third, on a two-out liner to right field. Fujio was left stranded on the base paths, as Saulnier tapped a bouncer to Fowler at second for the final out.
Ayer-Shirley batted around in the third inning and hit the Waltham defense into submission. The Panthers cranked out 10 runs on eight hits, including five straight hits from Consalvo, Brown, Fowler and Nick Granger. Granger picked up a pair of RBI on his screamer into left field which brought home Fowler and Brown.
Waltham picked up its first out on a strikeout to Schiavone, but reliever Caleb McHugh-Szeko walked back-to-back Panthers to load the bases. Woodland picked up his third RBI of the day on a double to left, which brought across both Joey Robinson and Wilson. Consalvo and Brown, both scored on passed balls to up Ayer-Shirley's lead to 14-0.
Waltham had one more chance to plate five-runs in the fourth inning to keep the game alive, but Brown was looking to end it early.
Brown went from the windup and worked efficiently striking out the top of the Waltham order to seal the mercy-shortened victory and lock up a berth in the championship.
Brown collected a total of nine strikeouts in the four inning affair, while allowing three hits.
Consalvo and Brown paced the Ayer-Shirley offense, as each went 3-for-3. Consalvo had one RBI, while Brown knocked home two.
Ayer-Shirley advances to the finals tomorrow, at Featherland Park, against Stoneham at 12:30 p.m.