PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Lynnfield’s Mike Stellato reacts after the final out is made in the Pioneers’ 8-2 loss to Austin Prep at Fraser Field in Lynn Sunday.
By STEVE KRAUSE
LYNN — Sunday’s Lynnfield-Austin Prep baseball game came down to one inning — or, rather, parts of two innings that added up to one.
The pivotal moments in Austin Prep’s 8-2 Division 3 North final win over the Pioneers came in the bottom of the third, with Lynnfield poised to make some serious inroads into what was, at the time, a 3-1 Cougar lead.
Andrew Padovani led off the bottom of the third with an opposite-field single to right — Lynnfield’s first off sophomore Cam Seguin. Jonathan Luders tried to bunt Padovani over, but ended up doing one better. The sacrifice worked, but the ball popped out of first baseman Josh Bartnicki’s glove, putting runners on first and second.
Kyle Hawes followed by executing the sacrifice perfectly, and Lynnfield had two runners in scoring position with one out. Seguin pitched very carefully to No. 3 hitter Justin Juliano and ran the count full before getting him on a swinging third strike. Thus, when Mike Stellato flew out to center — deep enough to have scored a run had there been less than two out — it was a can of corn for Dylan Arnold.
“We had some opportunities and we didn’t come across,” said Lynnfield coach John O’Brien. “That was a big spot right there. Two runners on and none out, and none of them score.”
The failure to capitalize on their opportunities was driven home to the Pioneers in an even worse way in the top of the fourth, with Austin Prep — which moves onto the state semifinal Tuesday in Brockton against Dover-Sherborn — picking up two runs to begin pulling away.
Patrick Burke led off with a walk and ended upon third when Jonathan Gilbride reached on an error (one of three by the Pioneers).
Arnold reached on another error to make it 4-2, Cougars; and Gilbride came home on a sacrifice fly by Logan Bravo, whose first-inning moon shot got the Cougars off and running.
“That was the game, right there,” O’Brien said. “We don’t score and they do.
“But you have to give them credit,” O’Brien said. “They made the plays all day long. They made some great plays, and their kid (Seguin) made some great pitches. He had a nice little curve, and he kept us off-balance.”
Bravo’s homer gave Austin Prep a 1-0 lead, and the Cougars made it 2-0 in the second off Nick Aslanian when, with one out, Alex Martinez singled and came all the way around on Burke’s double. Lynnfield cut that lead in half when Bryant Dana was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the second, took second when Cooper Marengi grounded out, and scored on an error.
The Cougars got another run in the third when Peter Burns walked, went to third on Bartnicki’s base hit, and came home on Nick Cafarelli’s single.
After the Cougars went ahead, 5-1, Lynnfield got its second run in the bottom of the fourth when Marengi reached on an error and scored on Michael Federico’s triple to right. Austin Prep put the game away with three runs in the fifth inning before reliever Fernando Gonzalez settled down and silenced the Cougars’ bats.
“Certainly wasn’t the way we wanted to end a good season,” said O’Brien. “I don’t think we played our best game.”
Austin Prep coach Steve Busby couldn’t say enough about the way Seguin pitched.
“He’s been a horse for us in the second half,” he said. “I think it was 9-1. He pitched on three days’ rest (he also beat Swampscott in the quarterfinal Wednesday).
“He pitched to his strengths,” said Busby. “He had good movement, and hit his spots.”