Nothing has come easy this season for Sandwich American Legion Post 188. They’ve had to work for every win, and three times in the post-season they’ve stared elimination in the face and come back to win. Tuesday night, they did it again with a 7-2 deciding third victory over Fairhaven in the final contest of a best-of-three series.
After a crushing 14-2 defeat in game one of the series, Post 188 bounced back to give Fairhaven a taste of lopsided defeat with a 15-2 victory at Fenton Field in Sandwich Monday night. With the season riding on the line for both clubs, Post 188 once again showed what kind of a club they are and earning a trip to the state championship, their eighth, under Head Coach Bob Corradi.
"The kids showed what kind of character we have on this team," Corradi said. "We’ve worked hard all year long because we haven’t been consistently good all season. It takes a lot of effort to win the way we’ve been doing it. I’m really proud of these guys."
Staff ace Steve Cishek had the hill for the rubber game and came through quite well, as he has all summer. Cishek went the distance holding Fairhaven to five hits while striking out eight and walking just two. "Steve was outstanding," Corradi added, "and we really hit the ball in the clutch and (Scott) McNee gave us a big jump with the home run."
In the bottom of the first, McNee drove a dagger into the hopes of Fairhaven with a two-run blast that cleared the center field fence.
As Cishek worked over the Fairhaven offense, Post 188 continued to roll at the plate. In the second inning a walk to Brendon Kelliher came back to hurt, when John Muse wrapped out a double scoring Kelliher followed by a Mike Curadossi base hit that brought in Muse.
In the third, Post 188 again took advantage of Fairhaven pitching when Cishek, who had reached when hit by a pitch, scored on a base hit by Gabe Stallions.
Fairhaven pushed a run across in the fifth, but in the bottom of the frame Post 188 answered with two more to take a 7-1 lead. Fairhaven scored their second run in the sixth.
Each of the three playoff series has reached a decisive third game, and each time the team has risen to the challenge. After the blowout at Fairhaven Sunday, in which they gave up 14 runs that included three home runs, Mike Christopher took the ball in his first start of the season and turned in his best performance of the summer to lead Post 188 to a 15-2 victory in the second game.
Christopher went the distance in the seven-inning contest shortened by virtue of the mercy rule that awards the win to a team ahead by 10 or more runs after seven innings. He held an offense that had 16 hits and put up 14 runs the night before to just two hits.
While Christopher stymied the Fairhaven offense, Post 188 put on a show at the plate scoring 15 runs on 14 hits. Tyler Parker fired the opening salvo with a three-run blast that cleared the centerfield fence touching off a six-run second inning. With six runs in his pocket, Christopher went after the Fairhaven hitter facing just four over the minimum for the next six innings.
Parker drove in Kelliher in the third inning and, in the fourth, Post 188 put on another offensive show with seven hits sparked by a leadoff triple from Cishek that led to four more runs.
Trailing 11-1, Fairhaven was already looking toward game three. In the fifth Sandwich made them pay for their mental lapse, scoring four more runs, three of them a result of an error. Fairhaven scored an unearned run in the sixth. Offensively, over the final two games McNee went 5-for-6 with six runs scored and four RBIs.
The next challenge awaiting Post 188 will be in the state championship series at Milford that features the top eight in Massachusetts. Post 188 will resume action tomorrow when they face reigning state champion Andover Post 8 at Fino Field in Milford in the first round of the double-elimination State Final Eight tournament. The game will begin one half-hour after the conclusion of the first game on the docket Saturday, the Lynn Gautreau squad vs. Walpole, which begins at 9:30 AM. The first pitch for Post 188 is expected to be at approximately 12:30 PM.
Andover finished its regular season with a record of 17-1 with their only loss coming to Swampscott. They lost one game last year during their post-season title run, with that coming at the hands of Norwood.
This summer in the playoffs Andover swept Lowell and Peabody in two game sets to improve to 21-1. They have outscored their opponents this year by a margin of 158-55.
Should Post 188 defeat Post 8 Saturday they will face the winner of the Milford vs. Worcester East Side game Sunday night one-half hour after the completion of the 4:30 PM game at approximately 7:30 PM. Should Post 188 lose to Andover, it will play the loser of the Milford-Worcester East Side game Sunday at approximately 12:30 PM.
Each of the final eight teams will continue to play every day until eliminated.
Zach Dayton is expected to get tomorrow’s start for Sandwich.