By Monica Monteiro, HockomockSport.com Managing Editor
PLYMOUTH, Mass. – Nevermind that more than half the team had to swap their uniforms for tuxedos and dash off to the Junior Prom immediately following the game. And nevermind that a barrage of late spring rain pushed what would have been a Thursday night neutral site contest to a Friday matinee on their opponents’ turf; the Oliver Ames Tigers make no excuses and offer no apologies for the way their 2012 campaign came to an end.
Seventh seeded OA fell, 12-3, to the sixth seeded Blue Eagles of Plymouth North today in the MIAA Division II South Semifinal Round at Siever Field in Plymouth after an impressive season that saw the Tigers capture the Hockomock League’s Davenport Division Title and finish with a 14-9 record overall.
After a nearly flawless performance by his team on both sides of the ball in their previous game – a 6-0 dismantling of second seeded Hingham in the state tournament’s Quarterfinal Round on Tuesday – Oliver Ames head coach Leo Duggan chalked today’s loss up to simple misexecution.
“They just can’t [always] do it; that’s why they’re kids,” said Duggan. “They executed and we didn’t and that was really it. It wasn’t our day. We’ve got half of them going to the prom right now, but that’s no excuse. Give Plymouth North the credit; they’re the defending state champs.”
The Tigers came out hot to start. Senior captain Jim Sullivan battled his way aboard, drawing a walk to lead off for Oliver Ames, and then junior captain and shortstop David MacKinnon was quick to make it count – driving a 2-run shot to left centerfield to put OA head 2-0 by the time the Blue Eagles got their first turn at the plate.
“MacKinnon hit the ball well his first time up, and that started off the game well for us but then Plymouth North just came flying back,” said Duggan.
Senior captain David Holmes got the nod for the Tigers and gave up a double to the first batter he faced, but then recorded two quick outs. After walking Plymouth North’s cleanup man, an RBI single from the next hitter scored the Eagles’ first run, before Holmes notched his second of two strikeouts on the day to end the first inning.
The Tigers went down in order in the top of the second, but the Eagles went much less quietly in their second go on offense. Plymouth North strung together a relentless sequence of perfectly executed bunts and timely hits that helped them jump out to a 7-2 lead with just one out in the bottom of the second.
“We couldn’t cover a bunt,” said Duggan. “We did the little things wrong.”
But O’Shea couldn’t stop the bleeding either and the same quality mechanics that produced the first 6 runs of the inning resulted in 5 more for the Blue Eagles before the third out of the second was at last recorded.
“David (Holmes) had a tough outing today, but he’s been good for us all year,” said Duggan in praise of his departing senior. “Not having Ryan (O’Shea) for the year made a big difference. He wanted to come in; we let him pitch. He did alright, we just wish we had him all year. But to win 14 games without him is still a really good accomplishment and then to get to the semifinals, we just couldn’t come through.”
From then on, Oliver Ames knew they had a tall task ahead of them. But a 10-run hole didn’t shake the Tigers’ resolve. Senior Matt Ingargiola drew a walk to lead off the third inning, which Sullivan followed up with a single. MacKinnon punched a double his second time through, and senior captain and catcher Matt Harding scored Ingargiola from third on an RBI single to bring his team one run closer.
The Blue Eagles didn’t score again all game, but neither did Oliver Ames, as the defending MIAA Division II State Champions were able to protect the sizeable lead they only needed two innings to build.
Senior Andrew Mancini contributed a single for OA in the top of the sixth, followed up by a single from senior Drew Egger who came in to replace junior Brad Fleming to start the inning.
“The six seniors did a great job for us,” said Duggan of the performances turned in by Sullivan, Holmes, Harding, O’Shea, Egger and Ingargiola – not just on the day but throughout their varsity careers. “Basically they played on teams that won 48 ballgames in three years. That’s pretty good, and three league championships, you really can’t fault that. It hurts right now, but they’ll get over it.”
“Servello’s going to be good,” said Duggan of his young pitcher. “We’ve got a good nucleus coming back, but still those seniors winning 48 ballgames in three years is going to be awfully tough to replace.”
In addition to the loss of six seniors, the Tigers will also be without three of their four captains when they return to the diamond in 2013, as MacKinnon is the only junior of the quartet.
“It’s been a great year and we hate to end it like this,” said Duggan reflectively. “We were ready to go last night at the Rox’s stadium (Campanelli Stadium in Brockton), but then we got the call it was pushed back. We’ve had some great games with Plymouth North in the past, we just couldn’t compete with them today. But on another day? Yeah, maybe, I think we really could have.”
Despite their obvious disappointment, the Tigers remained lighthearted as they parted ways – most players bound for their friends’ and teammates’ houses to take pictures before hurriedly departing for their prom. Their ability to compartmentalize the loss alongside tonight’s impending excitement appeared to stem fittingly from their head coach, whose teasing threats to show up and crash the occasion seemingly would have been only too welcomed.
“They won’t be down for too long; we’ve got our prom tonight,” reiterated Duggan. “But like I said, that’s no excuse.”