Oakmont Punches Playoff Ticket
TOWNSEND — It’s been quite a while — six years, to be exact — since the Oakmont Regional baseball team has reached the promised land of every interscholastic hardballer in the Commonwealth: getting the opportunity of playing their sport into the month of June. And for a time before 2013, the Spartans were regular participants in the postseason.
That long wait for a return to postseason play came to its end on Wednesday afternoon, as Oakmont clinched its berth thanks to a 14-3 win over host North Middlesex Regional at Schoppe Field.
The win lifts Oakmont to 9-5 overall (5-3 Mid-Wach C) with four games remaining, starting with Friday’s doubleheader against Groton-Dunstable Regional at Driscoll Park.
North Middlesex fell to 1-12 (1-6) and hosts Hudson Friday afternoon.
Fifth-year Oakmont coach Tim Caouette was very pleased with the win, and the return to the postseason for his program.
“This is huge. This group has been with me for four years, and they’ve been through the good times and the bad, but they’ve stuck with it,” Caouette said. “These seniors have changed the culture; they expect to win, and that’s a big shift. It’s awesome to see, and it’s special to do it with this group.”
Senior righty Jack Batten was solid on the mound for the Spartans. Batten went six strong innings, striking out five while giving up five hits. The two North Middlesex runs he allowed were both unearned, and he took advantage of some good defense behind him.
He also found the Patriots to be an aggressive, free-swinging bunch on this warm spring day in the Harbor: of the 26 hitters he faced, only five saw first-pitch balls, while nine were first-pitch swinging and putting the ball in play.
“I can’t tell you how much (Batten) has grown up and how hard he’s worked,” Caouette said . “He’s become a man over the last four years, and his arm has been sore lately; he’s done nothing but DH’d since Fitchburg last week. He wanted the ball today to get us in. He didn’t let us lose.
“He was phenomenal, and he totally stepped up.”
“We hit it to them,” said longtime Patriots coach Tom Bartelson. “We didn’t find the holes; that’s the thing. They were a lot more aggressive than we were, and they found the holes.”
Oakmont spotted Batten a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.
Second baseman Ryan Caisse opened things with a leadoff base hit to left before he stole second. NM southpaw starter Seth Farley went 0-2 to Patrick Forbes (3 hits) before he roped a full count pitch to left center for an RBI triple, bringing Caisse in easily.
Forbes then came in on the first of three wild pitches by Farley (4 1/3 IP, 5 hits, 2 K’s) on the afternoon.
“He struggled in the first inning; if we take that first inning back,” Bartelson said, “and get his control, I think the score would have reflected better toward the end of the game.”
Oakmont made it 3-0 an inning later.
With one out, Jake Packard reached on a fielding error before going to second on Caisse’s (4 hits) two-out single — but an error on the throw back to the infield allowed both runners to advance an additional 90 feet.
Farley’s third wild pitch brought Packard in.
North Middlesex cut the deficit to one in the bottom half of the second as Farley, who had singled, scored on a fielding error in the outfield on Joe Murphy’s double. Murphy went to third on the error, and he scored as Dan Abbott’s grounder to short was exquisitely played, but the throw wasn’t caught cleanly, and Murphy scored.
But after that inning, Batten coasted. He had thrown 8 pitches in the first inning before throwing four pitches to Justin Marr to end the frame; he threw 16 pitches in the second.
He returned seven in a row, including a 10-pitch third and an 8-pitch fourth. Batten also threw 12 in the fifth, and 11 in the sixth for a total of 65 before he gave way to Ryan Mack in the seventh.
Oakmont made it 4-2 in the fifth as Batten singled in Forbes, spelling the end of the afternoon for Farley.
Oakmont batted around in the sixth to score six runs on five hits and a Patriot error, before scoring four runs in the top of the seventh on four hits and an error.