Rockets Are State Champions

by | Jun 19, 2017

On Saturday, Boys Baseball had a 4-1 victory over Dover-Sherborn to become Division 3 State Champions in the MIAA Tournament. Auburn was last in this game in 2013 when their powerhouse team was defeated by Hingham, 7-6. The Rockets did claim the state title for the first time in 1998 and again in 2009.

Coach Eric Swedberg has repeatedly given credit to the seniors for being leaders of this young team, and after Saturday’s victory he told them, “I love you guys. Seniors, I’m going to freakin’ miss you.” Whether it was instilling confidence in the younger players or just showing support, it worked.

While there is certainly talent in all the age groups, the depth of pitching this season has been extraordinary. Junior Matt Palmer and freshman Mike Breen pitched the majority of the innings during the tournament, but junior Joe Hopper and sophomore Evan Bond brought some relief. Palmer’s sidearm technique consistently kept opposing batters off balance, and he was the sole pitcher during this final game.

Auburn’s defense was also top notch this season with only a few exceptions and errors, and the Rocket bats really came alive, especially when it mattered most. It didn’t hurt to have a bunch of lefties at the plate, and they made the opposing right-handed pitchers work extra hard. Collin Hines, Josh Tower, Steve Saucier, Joe Hopper and Mike Breen were the majority of the starting lineup in the championship game, and it was like this much of the year.

As everyone knows in baseball, you can’t judge anything by the first inning. That was proven in Tuesday’s match with Wahconah when a six-run lead shrank to a one-run lead in a single inning. Nevertheless, Auburn’s first inning lead on Saturday gave fans a bit of comfort and hope.

In the top of the first, Dover-Sherborn left 2 runners stranded on base with no score. The Rockets’ first batter, Saucier, hit a double and then Brian Sarkisian hit a double to drive him home. In the next four at bats, the Rockets were contacting the ball well, but the Raiders were fielding well.

The 1-0 lead would hold until the top of the fifth when an Auburn error put runners on second and third. On a bunt, one Raider scored, but the second was out at the plate as Sarkisian held his ground. Palmer would make one of his five strikeouts to end the inning.

For the second time this week, Auburn had a high scoring inning late in the game, this time the sixth. Tower made it all the way to third after a bad throw to first that should have caught him. Sarkisian was walked, and runners were on 1 and 3. Luke Matthews hit a single down the left field line that scored Tower and gave the Rockets a 2-1 lead.

Colin McKeon hit a double that brought in a 3rd run, and a bunt by Mike Collins would bring in a fourth. Collin’s bunt was the second out, but a runner got caught off third for the third out. Palmer held on in the seventh to strike out two before a pop-up was caught in center field to end the game.

In the end, each team had 6 hits and 2 errors, but Auburn got to home plate more often, 3 more times. Congratulations to all involved with this great program. It is also nice to know that all pitchers will be returning next season.