LOWELL-- True champions come through at the right moments.
Those were the words of Manchester Essex head baseball coach B.J. Weed following the Division 4 State Championship Game on Saturday at LeLacheur Park in Lowell.
As it turns out, Weed has a team full of true champions as it took a complete team effort to come away with a 5-2 win over Tahanto to clinch the program's first state championship.
"This is a once in a lifetime chance and this team did something special," Weed said. "The senior leadership has been unbelievable. They've led the way all season. And we've had freshmen step up, sophomore step up, juniors step up. This is a moment they will remember for the rest of their lives, it almost feels like a dream."
Manchester Essex (20-5) got contributions all over the diamond. Painter led the offense with three hits, including a pair of doubles, Wilson had two RBI hits and pitched the final two innings of relief to earn the save. Freshman Kellen Heney earned the win, allowing two runs in 4 2/3 innings of work. Senior captain Luke Leavitt also had two hits, one RBI and two runs, freshman Vaughn O'Leary struck out the only batter he faced to get out of a fifth inning jam and sophomore Will Levendusky chipped in a big bunt single to get a fourth inning rally started.
"That's been the story of our season, everyone contributing when we needed it most," said senior captain Harry Painter. "We took it one out at a time and we got the job done. It's a dream come true, we couldn't ask for a better end to the story for the seniors."
The Hornets took a 1-0 lead right away when senior captain Wilson's single up the middle scored Painter from third after he doubled and moved to second on a wild pitch.
The Stags, however, battled back to tie it up in the bottom of the frame on a RBI single from Ethan Sauriol, who had three hits and drove in both of his team's runs.
Manchester Essex took the lead for good with a pair of runs in the third. Painter singled up the middle with runners on first and second, and a good throw from Tahanto center fielder Adam Fuller looked like it was going to hold Will Janowicz at third. But the throw got away from the catcher allowing Janowicz to come in to make it 2-1. Two batters later, Wilson lined a single up the middle scoring Leavitt, who walked, to extend the lead to 3-2.
Tahanto answered back with a run in the third after Sauriol's pop up on the infield was misplayed for a RBI hit.
Manchester Essex, however, had a big answer in the top of the fourth with two more runs. After Levendusky's leadoff bunt single, Tahanto starter Justin Wolfe battled back to get the next two outs, but Leavitt came up clutch with a laser of a double that short hopped the wall in right field and scored Levendusky all the way from first to give the Hornets a 4-2 lead. Painter followed with a double to score Leavitt for the final run of the game, giving the Hornets a 5-2 edge.
"We all just tried to do what we could for each other," Wilson said. "We took the same approach we did all season long. We have a really deep lineup and everyone plays hard for all seven innings."
From there, the Manchester Essex pitching took over. Heney got the side in order in the fourth. He allowed two runs on five hits with six strikeouts for the win.
"He has veins of ice that kid," Weed said. "When we first saw him throw in the preseason we said, 'Holy cow this kid can be special.' He showed it today."
Heney got into a jam in the fifth and was relieved by Vaughn O'Leary, who came in and struck out Tahanto's No. 3 hitter with runners on first and second to end the threat.
Wilson came in and pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh to close it out.
"He was getting the ball to finish no matter what," Weed said. "Just like Harry Painter got his special moment last game in his final varsity start, Wilson got it today. I don't care what the situation was, he was getting the ball at the end."
Wilson finished it off by catching a pop up just in foul territory next to home plate, and he was immediately mobbed by his teammates.
"I just wanted to hug everyone," Painter said. "It was an amazing feeling and it means a lot to us.
For Wilson, the win was a culmination of the work the Hornet's put in all season long.
"Nobody knows what we did behind the scenes," Wilson said. "The hard work we put in all season and the time we put in at practice. It all paid off today. I really wanted to catch that last out and I can't even describe the feeling when everyone piled on top of me."
Division 4 State Championship
Manchester Essex 5, Tahanto 2
at LeLacheur Park, Lowell
Manchester Essex 102 200 0| 5
Tahanto 101 000 0| 2
ME: Leavitt, LF, 3-2-2; Painter, DH/3B, 3-1-3; B. O'Leary, SS, 3-0-0; Wilson, 3B/P, 4-0-2; Quill, C, 3-0-0; Glass, 1B, 3-0-0; Levendusky, 1B, 3-1-1; Arntsen, 2B, 3-0-0; Janowicz, CF, 2-1-0. Totals, 28-5-8.
T: Fuller, CF, 2-1-1; Grady, 1B, 4-1-1; Arcand, CF, 3-0-1; Sauriol, 2B/SS 3-0-3; Salerno, 3B, 3-0-0; St. Denis, LF, 3-0-0; Railsback, SS/P, 2-0-1; Walton, DH/2B, 3-0-0; Brown, C, 3-0-0. Totals, 26-2-7.
RBI: ME, Wilson 2, Leavitt, Painter; T, Sauriol 2.
WP, Heney; LP, Wolfe.
Records: ME, 20-5; T, 17-7.