LYNN — Coaches often preach the importance of jumping out to a quick start and carrying that momentum through the rest of the game.
The No. 13 Swampscott baseball team sprinted out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning of Wednesday night’s Division 3 North semifinal at Fraser Field. After that, No. 1 Austin Prep took control and never looked back. The Cougars shook off their slow start to grab a 26-10 win, ending Swampscott’s season.
“At the beginning of the season we said ‘give us a neutral site with (Luke) Marshall on the mound against Austin Prep and we like our chances,'” Swampscott coach Jason Calichman said. “It didn’t happen today. We made five errors, 12 walks, a couple hit batters. You’re not going to beat anybody, nevermind a really good team, like that.”
Aside from a six-run rally in the fourth, the Big Blue couldn’t get much going to halt the Cougars. Austin Prep scored in every inning except the bottom of the sixth.
“I love that we battled back when they went up. We put a little scare on them,” Calichman said. “They just sort of reloaded and we ran out of gas. It wasn’t an ideal way to end the season.”
The Big Blue jumped out to an ideal start in the top of the first. Swampscott loaded the bases without the benefit of a base hit. Spencer Perkins and Ryan Graciale drew walks and Nick Reiser was hit by a pitch. David Quill put the Big Blue on the scoreboard with a RBI single. Dylan January (five RBI) followed with a three-RBI double, giving Swampscott a 4-0 lead.
“Dylan’s been locked in,” Calichman said. “We just didn’t make the right plays and we didn’t throw strikes. I don’t care if we’re playing Austin Prep or anybody else. You’re not going to win a game with that many errors and walks. It wasn’t our day.”
In the blink of an eye, Austin Prep erased Swampscott’s strong start. After the Cougars loaded the bases, Nick Cafarelli hit a three-RBI triple to make it a one-run game. Jake Thain kept the rally alive with a two-run home run, giving Austin Prep a 5-4 lead.
Austin Prep plated eight more runs in the second. Logan Bravo and Dylan Arnold each hit a three-RBI triple, Denis Taylor laced a RBI single and a Swampscott error granted the Cougars another run. Swampscott trailed 13-4 after two innings.
Austin Prep plated three runs in the third, stretching its lead to 16-4.
Swampscott made things interesting in the top of the fourth. Perkins scored on an error and January added a two-RBI double. Jonathan Oriakhi’s two-RBI single gave Swampscott life at 16-9. The Big Blue plated one more on an error and trailed 16-10 after three and a half.
“These kids have a lot of grit,” Calichman said. “All season long they’ve battled, they’ve fought and bought into what we’re talking about. Today was no different. Once we got to 16-10, in my head I thought we’d win the game. Then they came back and scored four. If you told me we’d score 10 runs, I would’ve said we were going to the North final. But that happens, it’s baseball.”
That was all the gas Swampscott had left in the tank. Austin Prep scored four runs in the fourth inning and six in the fifth, putting the game well out of Swampscott’s reach for the 26-10 Cougars win.
Austin Prep advances to Sunday’s (3) Division 3 North final against the winner of No. 2 Lynnfield and No. 14 Dracut at LeLacheur Park in Lowell.
Swampscott ends its season at 12-11 and graduates eight seniors from this spring’s roster.
“I love these guys,” Calichman said. “Marshall and Perkins have practiced with us since they were freshmen and have been playing as varsity starters for three years. Luke finished his career with 17 wins. Perkins has been an underrated player for three years. Brett (Benoit) made himself a really good player and seized his opportunity.
“It’s a group of kids that did anything we asked and that’s why I feel bad,” Calichman added. “All season long we preached ‘if you do what we’re telling you, you’ll come home champions.’ And then today happened. But I love this group. It’s a great group of kids.”