Baseball team advances to next round in roller-coaster thriller

Brooks Keefe fields a groundball and fires it to first. Photo by Spenser Hasak

When it comes to postseason play, survive and advance is the name of the game. The No. 29 Marblehead baseball team did just that Thursday, holding off a fierce comeback from No. 36 Somerville to advance to the next round of the Division 2 tournament.

In Marblehead’s 13-11 win, it was smooth sailing to start. The Magicians got out to an early 9-0 lead, highlighted by an eight-run second inning where six straight batters registered RBI.

Unfortunately for the Magicians, that smooth sailing would hit some waves. Somerville rallied off seven runs in the third inning to cut it to 9-7.

“They can swing the bats. We were told they are a free-swinging team and that they’ll go after us, and they did,” Marblehead coach Mike Giardi said. “Credit them. Down 9-0 in the third inning in a tournament game and they just started swinging and got after it.”

Good teams respond. The Magicians tacked on two more runs for an 11-7 cushion in the third. Both Stefan Shepard and Shane Keough recorded RBI in the inning.

“You’re hoping for a shutout inning after it becomes 9-0, and we come back in and it’s 9-7,” Giardi said. “We came right back and put another two on the board, so you feel a little better about it there.”

Not only was Keough making plays at the plate, but in the field, too. In the fifth inning with the Magicians ahead 11-10, Somerville had its bases loaded with one out. Keough made a catch in center field before gunning down a tag runner – preserving Marblehead’s one-run lead.

“It’s an energy play, too,” Giardi said. “Shane came up big with that throw. It was awesome.”

Just like that, momentum swung back to the Magicians, who tacked on two more insurance runs for pitcher Chris Cannuscio to close things out.

Speaking of Cannuscio, he’s used to getting thrown into tight games, and retired two Highlanders to seal the deal.

“He’s been very used to that role and successful in that role,” Giardi said.

Giardi wasn’t happy with everything postgame, but Thursday’s positives far outweigh the negatives in his eyes.

“We swung the bats well at times,” Giardi said. “We’ll take the positives out of the game. I think when you win a game, you can look at the mistakes you did make and say, ‘This is what we have to correct if we want to advance in the tournament.’”

Marblehead’s next game is a road one against No. 4 Hopkinton at 5 p.m. on Monday.

Despite Hopkinton being a top-five team in the division, Cannuscio is looking forward to a potential upset.

“Hopkinton is a great team,” Cannuscio said. “We really have nothing to lose. We’re the No. 29 seed and they’re the No. 4 seed, so we’ll try and shock the state.”