SAUGUS — Sunday’s state final was a nail-biter from start to finish but in the end the Lynn Babe Ruth 15-year-old All-Stars fell short in a 5-2 nine-inning loss to Braintree at World Series Park.
Braintree starter Chase Cahill (7 1/3 innings, one run, five hits, one walk, five strikeouts) was tough on Lynn’s bats.
“(Cahill) threw just a little bit harder than the pitchers we had seen,” Lynn manager Brian O’Connor said. “He could throw about 5 MPH faster so it was hard for these guys to get that timing. Some of the more varsity guys were used to it but most weren’t.”
Cahill held Lynn scoreless for six innings before Aaron O’Connor laced a solo home run in the seventh to keep Lynn alive and send the game into extras at 1-1. The homer looked like it may be a momentum swing but Lynn couldn’t capitalize, with Braintree building a comfortable 5-1 lead in a four-run ninth.
“That was just exciting,” O’Connor said. “I’m so proud of this team. I mean to tie it in the seventh with one out is incredible. To be down to your final two outs and come back, that makes it hard to swallow right now.
“But we were undefeated, 8-0 in district and states,” O’Connor said. “It was a great run and finishing No. 2 out of 58 teams is nothing to cry about. It’s just a bad feeling now, it’s like the Bruins losing game seven. That’s what it feels like.”
Despite the loss, Anthony Mateo dominated on the mound for Lynn, throwing 7 2/3 innings and allowing just one run on five hits and one walk with seven strikeouts. Christian Moran and Anthony Marino came in for relief in the eighth and ninth, respectively.
“It makes it sting more because (Mateo) pitched so well,” O’Connor said. “Moran had pitched seven shutout innings but he was having trouble on the mound. There was a little sinkhole in the dirt and they couldn’t get comfortable, even Mateo took an inning to get comfortable.”
Braintree got off to an ideal start thanks to Cahill, who laced a line drive to left and slid into second for a double to start the game. Cahill used his speed to steal third and scored on a ground out to give Braintree a 1-0 lead.
That’s where it stayed for most of the game. Lynn struggled to string together hits and hit into two double plays.
Things looked tough for Lynn in the seventh with one out but the team refused to go down without a fight. Aaron O’Connor worked a full count and jumped on a fastball, lacing his solo home run to right-center to knot the score even.
After a scoreless eighth, Braintree took back the momentum in the ninth. A pair of walks and a single loaded the bases with no outs. Two straight RBI singles gave Braintree a 3-1 lead and another pair of RBI walks stretched that lead to 5-1 before Lynn got out of the jam.
With Cahill off the mound due to a high pitch count in the eighth Lynn hoped to have better luck at the plate against reliever Quinn McCrae but he had other plans. Lynn added a run on a pair of errors but McCrae settled down and allowed just one hit to close out the game.
Lynn’s season comes to a close but O’Connor knows there’s plenty to be proud of and look forward to in the future.
“These kids have a lot of high school ball ahead of them,” O’Connor said. “A lot of great competition ahead of them. They’ll be OK. This group won the Gallant Tournament when they were in it, so we knew we had a special group. They all get along and they’re all really good friends so it’s just been so much fun. They’re talented so they’re a fun team to watch too. I’m so proud of them and the coaching staff (Mark Marino, Jay Fraher and Matt Donahue) they worked hard every practice. It’s just sad that it’s over now.”