When looking at the paths the Monument Mountain and Northbridge baseball teams took to reach the MIAA Division III state semifinal, it's apparent that runs will be at a premium.
Heading into today's 4 p.m. matchup at Worcester State, the Spartans have allowed only five runs through three tournament games. Three of those runs were scored by Berkshire County foe Wahconah, in a 7-3 Western Mass. second-round win. Two more came against Athol in a 4-2 semifinal victory.
Monument heads into its game against Northbridge coming off an impressive four-hit shutout by pitcher Peter Oggiani over Greenfield on Saturday.
Ironically, Northbridge also got a four-hit shutout, from pitcher Brian Carroll during its 3-0 win over Hudson in the Central Mass. Division III title game Saturday.
Northbridge has also allowed only five runs in its last three tournament games. Four of them came in a 5-4, 14-inning win over Assabet in the Central Mass. semifinals.
"Anybody that gets this far in the tournament has to play pretty good baseball," Monument coach Tom Hankey said. "We're not concerned with what they're going to do. If we execute our game plan, we should be in good shape."
The winner today gets Southern Mass. champion Bellingham in Saturday's state final. Bellingham beat North Reading 3-2 in the other state semifinal.
With the semifinal being moved to today from Tuesday, the extra day could allow Carroll to take the rubber again. If not, Michael Quinn, who earned the win against Assabet, could take the mound.
Whomever starts for Northbridge will face Monument starter James Allentuck. The junior right-hander struck out 12 batters in his last start, a complete-game win over Athol.
"James is throwing well. His last two starts have been outstanding," Hankey said.
Oggiani will move from the mound to third base, and Bobby Kinne will be in the lineup for the second straight game after dealing with the effects of a concussion suffered in the quarterfinal win against Wahconah.
"My return was reassuring to the guys and one less thing that had to be on their minds," Kinne said. "With me or without me, we are an incredible and special ball club."
Kinne's presence in the lineup goes further that what stats can quantify. The senior captain said he takes pride covering a lot of ground in the middle of the field and putting his infield in the best position to make a play.
"Not only is it his defense, but it's his leadership. [His leadership] is a huge pick up for us," Hankey said. "We're expecting him to do well tomorrow."
Tuesday's unscheduled off-day allowed Spartan players to rest and mentally prepare. Hankey said he kept practice light, letting his team get some swings in and telling them what was on the agenda for today.
"This time of year is just about sharpening up on a few things," the coach said.
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