Saturday's Division 3 North First Round meeting between No. 2 Gloucester and No. 18 Dracut was a tale of two games, the first four-and-a-half, and the final two.
Through the first four-and-a-half innings, Gloucester pitcher Zach Abbott and Dracut pitcher Sean McMeniman were dealing and combined to allow no runs with only two runners reaching third base. In the final two innings, the game took a wild turn.
From the bottom of the fifth to the top of the seventh, the teams combined to score 15 runs on 12 hits. In the end, a seven-run fifth inning was the difference in a 9-6 Gloucester win.
With the win, the Fishermen will take on No. 7 Pentucket in the Division 3 North Quarterfinals on Monday at Nate Ross Field (6 p.m.).
"That's the best No. 18 seed you will ever see," said Gloucester head coach Rory Gentile, whose team improves to 17-4. "I knew they wouldn't go away and that it wasn't going to be easy. That was their second look at Zach in a week and they're really well coached. We exploded late and I think our mental game and our approach got better as the game went on."
Early on, the Fishermen had nothing for McMeniman, a crafty lefty who was throwing a heavy dose of soft pitches, including a curve ball, a changeup and a fastball that was not over powering.
McMeniman sat down the first 11 batters he faced until a Marcus Montagnino two-out double in the fourth inning.
Abbott was there to match him pitch for pitch. The sophomore righty allowed six hits but made big pitches with runners on base to keep the game scoreless through the middle of the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Fishermen broke through in a big way, sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring seven runs. It was an inning where everyone in the batting order contributed as the team had five hits, two walks, a batter reach on an error, a sacrifice bunt and a RBI groundout.
"It's all about production," Gentile said. "We had to be strong mentally to succeed against a guy throwing the way (McMeniman) was, throwing multiple pitches but not throwing hard. We didn't try to do to much and we started to string some hits together."
Abbott led off the bottom of the fifth with a double to the gap in left center. Nico Taormina came in to pinch run and he was bunted over to third by Jake MacKillop. Lucas Melanson was next and he came up with a hard hit ball between third and shortstop for a RBI single scoring Taormina to make it 1-0.
"The highlight of the game for me was the way we started this inning," Gentile said. "We had the double, the sacrifice bunt and then we exploded. It was so cool to see all the little things we did well in that inning. Scoring seven times when we were playing just to get one at that point."
After a throwing error put runners at second and third, Jack Costanzo made it 2-0 when he caught the Dracut infield by surprise and dropped down a squeeze bunt scoring pinch runner Max Boucher from third. Matt Montagnino followed with a double to deep center scoring Jake Lucido and Costanzo. Montagnino later came in to score on a Ben Oliver grounder on the infield to make it 5-0.
Gloucester's final two runs of the inning came when E.J. Field scored on a wild pitch and Marcus Montagnino came in on a throwing error when he was caught in a rundown between third and home.
"We got one and just kept putting the pressure on them," Field said. "We got runners on base and made the pitcher go from the stretch. He had to worry about the runners and we took advantage of the mistakes."
Dracut, however, did not go away quietly, answering Gloucester's seven run fifth with five runs on five hits in the sixth.
Kyle Cox and Devin Lambert led off the frame with back-to-back singles. A balk moved the runners into scoring position and Cox came in on a grounder on the infield to finally put the Middies on the board.
A hit batsmen and a Daniel Robichaud single loaded the bases for McMeniman, who singled in Lambert and O'Toole, cutting the deficit to 7-3.
No. 3 hitter Patrick Crowley was intentionally walked to reload the bases and Michael Patterson followed with a two RBI single to make it 7-5 before a flyout ended the inning.
Gloucester took advantage of Dracut miscues in the bottom of the inning when Lucido came in to score on a fielding error and Costanzo on a bases loaded walk to make it 9-5. Brad Keefe homered to right in the seventh to cap the scoring at 9-6. Abbott got a flyout to finish off the complete game with 11 strikeouts, allowing five runs on 12 hits.
Gloucester scored nine runs on six hits, which came from six different players.
The Fishermen now turn their attention to No. 7 Pentucket on Monday. The Sachems (14-7) beat No. 10 Newburyport, 2-1 on Thursday in the first round. Monday's winner will advance to the Division 3 North Semifinals against the winner of Monday's semifinal between No. 3 Lynnfield and No. 11 North Reading.
Division 3 North First Round
No. 2 Gloucester 9, No. 18 Dracut 6
at Nate Ross Field, Gloucester
Dracut 000 005 1| 6
Gloucester 000 072 X| 9
D: Robichaud, 1B, 4-1-2; McMeniman, P/LF, 3-1-1; Crowley, LF/3B, 2-0-1; Patterson, DH/P, 4-0-2; Cox, RF, 4-1-1; Lambert, 3B/P, 4-1-1; Hogdon, 2B/P, 3-0-1; Augusta, 2B, 1-0-0; Keefe, C, 3-1-2; O'Toole, CF, 2-1-1. Totals, 30-6-12.
G: Mat. Montagnino, 2B, 3-1-1; Field, C, 4-1-1; Mar. Montagnino, CF, 2-1-1; Oliver, 3B, 4-0-0; Abbott, P, 3-0-1; Taormina, PH/PR, 0-1-0; MacKillop, 1B, 2-0-0; Melanson, RF, 2-0-1; Boucher, PR, 0-1-0; Lucido, DH, 3-2-0; Costanzo, SS, 2-2-1. Totals, 25-9-6.
RBI: D, McMeniman 2, Patterson 2, Hogdon, Keefe; G, Mat. Montagnino 2, Mar. Montagnino, Oliver, Melanson, Costanzo.
WP, Abbott; LP, McMeniman.
Records: D, 10-12; G, 17-4.