Valiant Classical effort falls just short in loss to Andover

David Barnard threw five innings of relief in Monday's loss to Andover. (Item File Photo)

LYNN– Sometimes you just fall short.

The No. 2 Classical baseball team gave No. 7 Andover its best punch Monday night in the Division 1 North quarterfinal at Fraser Field but it wasn’t enough in a 5-4 11-inning loss.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this group of guys,” Classical coach Mike Zukowski said. “My seniors, especially. The way they battled on the field. I told them leading up to this game, ‘you guys can’t leave anything on the field because you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.’ They left it all out there.”

Down 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh, the Rams rallied to tie the game on an Andover error. Patrick McConnell’s RBI single in the top of the 11th brought Aidan Ritter home with the winning run.

“I tip my hat to Andover,” Zukowski said. “Their two pitchers threw strikes. They did what they had to do and in the end they came out on top. But I can’t emphasize how proud I am of my team.”

After Classical starter Kyle Finnigan retired Andover in order through the first two innings, Classical grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Aidan Dow (2-for-5, RBI, run) led with a single. Brendan Lannon worked a 1-out walk and Jared DeFillipo followed with a single to load the bases. In stepped No. 8 hitter Deniel Ortiz (1-for-3, two RBI, run), who put the Rams on the board with a 2-run single.

Finnigan made things tough on Andover through the next two innings. But he ran into trouble in the top of the fifth and the Golden Warriors cashed in. Andover knotted the score at 2-2 behind RBI singles from Nolan Schirmer and Josh Gruenberg.

The Rams reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the fifth, when Ortiz crossed home plate on Dow’s RBI single.

Andover grabbed its first lead of the night in the top of the sixth. Anthony Teberio laced a RBI double to even the score at 3-3 and Ritter followed with a RBI single.

David Barnard took the ball in relief in the top of the seventh and escaped a bases-loaded jam thanks to a 4-6-3 double play.

Needing a rally to keep their season alive, the Rams answered the bell in the bottom of the seventh. Nico Galeazzi reached on a 1-out walk and tied the game at 4-4 when he scored via an errant throw.

“We didn’t give up,” Zukowski said. “Down a run at the end we came back and tied it. We kept plugging away. As a coach, you can’t ask any more from your team.”

It continued as a tight battle from there, with Barnard (five innings pitched) keeping Andover quiet through the next few frames.

“David comes off a season-ending injury (torn ACL) to play an inning the last game of the regular season,” Zukowski said. “He’s been working this last week, working so hard. We gave him a shot at DH. He put the ball in play a few times. He threw lights out.”

Neither team got anything going until the top of the 11th, when McConnell’s RBI single gave Andover a 5-4 edge.

With their backs against the wall, Classical fell short in the bottom of the 11th. The Rams went down 1-2-3 for the 5-4 loss.

Classical ends the season 14-7.

“I’m very proud of my senior class,” Zukowski said. “I’m proud of the way they tied in the freshman team, the JV team, the way they conducted themselves in front of them. They set an example.”

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