By Jeremy Balan
Lowell senior first baseman Nick Allen had his second consecutive game-winning RBI in the Cardinals’ 4-3 extra-innings win over Washington in AAA play on Thursday at Big Rec.
Tied at 3-3 in the top of the ninth inning, Allen lined a 3-2 pitch to center field that scored junior second baseman Oscar Gates-Kent from second.
“I just saw a good pitch and put the barrel on it and good things happened,” Allen said.
The RBI from Allen capped a wild game that featured four lead changes in the late innings.
“You couldn’t ask for a better game, but we wilted a little bit,” said Washington Head Coach Rob Fung. “We slipped a little bit.”
Allen wouldn’t have had a chance to put the Cardinals (16-5, 10-0) ahead in the second extra inning if not for a clutch two-out, two-RBI single from freshman Elijah Saunders in the top of the seventh inning to give Lowell a 3-2 lead.
“[Saunders] had the big hit and that’s why he’s on the varsity team,” said Lowell Head Coach John Donohue.
Up 2-1 heading into the seventh, after a go-ahead RBI single from junior catcher Alex Kozakiewicz, the Eagles (15-6, 8-2) needed only one more strike on Saunders to seal the victory.
“I was sitting back on the fastball and trying to react to the curveball and I just saw the pitch and went with it, the other way,” Saunders said.
The Eagles quickly responded by loading the bases in the bottom of the seventh and tied the score up on an apparent double-play ball that was bobbled by Gates-Kent.
The loss spoiled a solid outing from Washington starting pitcher Gabe Morse. Morse shut the Cardinals out through the first five innings, but allowed three runs late to erase two separate leads.
“[Morse] just has to get a better mentality pitching with the lead,” Fung said. “We’re going to learn from that.”
Morse struck out five and allowed four hits over seven innings of work.
“He pitched an excellent, excellent game,” Donohue said of Morse. “We knew he was going to throw strikes. He throws hard and we have a lot of respect for how he pitches.”
Morse held Allen hitless through is first three at bats.
“He was dealing at the beginning of the game,” Allen said. “We took a lot of pitches and got into there bullpen and that’s when good things started happening.”
Lowell sophomore starting pitcher Nick Tam also had a solid performance, allowing three runs over six innings, striking out five.
“He was one of our best pitchers as a freshman,” Donohue said of the young left-hander. “It was tough having to take him out in the seventh, but we knew we could go with [reliever] Nate [Gilchrist].”
Donohue replaced Tam with Gilchrist after a Morse opened the inning with an infield single. Although the inherited runner eventually scored to send the game to extra innings, Gilchrist retired the final eight batters of the game to collect the win.
The win puts Lowell two full games ahead of the Eagles in the AAA’s A Division.
Both teams acknowledge that the road to the AAA championship will probably include another matchup between the two, most likely in the title game at AT&T Park.
“From the beginning of the season, the goal has been to get to AT&T Park,” Saunders said. “We’ll probably be playing this same team and I expect it to be a really tough game, maybe even tougher.”
Even though Lowell swept the two-game regular season series, Washington will look for redemption in the postseason.
“[The two losses] just mean we have to come back and beat them at AT&T,” Morse said.