It was thought that the metal bats would be their savior.
After going through the year with unbelievable pitching — highlighted by a couple of big-game shutouts from senior ace James Smith — and below-average hitting (the Rebels only averaged 3.6 runs a game, tied for lowest in the Herget Division), the State Tournament rolled around along with the exciting ping of a metal bat. Last year, Walpole rattled off 7, 8, and 9 runs in their tournament games — much higher than their season average; this year’s version hoped it would turn out the same way.
However, this was not to be: Walpole Baseball suffered an early round exit at the hands of the 14th seeded Brockton Boxers, 4-0. Despite all the offensive struggles of the year, this was only the second time that the Rebels were shutout and only the sixth time that the Rebels’ opposition scored four runs or more in a game.
Smith started the game strongly, accruing 4 strikeouts in his first two innings, but Brockton — even with the strikeouts — grinded out 10 and 11 pitch at bats to increase Smith’s pitch count.
The Rebels, however, were doing the opposite: only senior Bob Ivatts and Smith reached base in the first three innings (two walks and a bunt single) as they struggled to figure out the Brockton pitcher’s placement. Senior Bob Rabaioli got a good piece of the ball in the first but it was caught in left field, stranding Ivatts and Smith — one of Walpole’s best opportunities of the game.
“We were trying all day to put the ball in places that Brockton wasn’t,” said Rabaioli. “All game we couldn’t find that big hit to get our offense going.”
After Smith got out of a bases loaded jam in the third, Brockton opened the scoring with some small ball. After a walk, Brockton’s sixth hitter stole one base, moved to third on a fielder’s choice, and took home on a flawlessly executed bunt-steal play. Then, in the fifth, Brockton’s second hitter took advantage of a passed ball strikeout to come all the way around to score after two stolen bases and a two-out single. Meanwhile, the Rebels could get nothing done offensively, with only one hit and three walks and only Smith reached third base.
Smith was removed after getting into a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth with the Rebels trying to keep the deficit at two. Senior Nick Cordopatri came in and immediately let up a single to bring in Brockton’s third run, but he settled down and got out of the inning.
The Rebels managed to get two runners on in the bottom of the sixth but sophomore Nate Porack flew out to end the inning. Brockton added another insurance run in the top of the seventh to all but end any hope for a silent Walpole offense to stage a comeback; the loss was complete after a 1-2-3 inning that completed the Brockton pitcher’s shutout.
“We had a tough time getting going,” said sophomore SS Ian Fair. “I thought we would get the spark that we’ve needed all season long, but the bats dried up for us and we couldn’t compete.”
Although the Rebels were not able to get much going behind the plate, the same could be said for a Brockton team that relied on bunt singles, selective stolen bases, and defensive miscues to score all four of their runs. The Boxers capitalized on every mistake that the Rebels made while Walpole only managed to get runners in scoring position three times in the game.
“We needed to play a great game to beat such a fundamentally sound team,” said Porack. “We just did not do that against [Brockton].”
This is the second year in three that the Rebels have suffered a loss in the first round to a significantly lower seed, the last time being Xaverian two years ago. The Rebels graduate an impressive pitching core, especially Smith, who will pitch next year at Roger Williams and a solid fielding crew that includes Rabaioli, who will also walk on for the Hawks.
However, with Fair, Porack, and juniors James Newman, Jack Donnelly, and Jack Lavanchy returning, Rebels baseball should be back on track to another state tournament berth next year. Maybe they’ll find the bats by then.