BILLERICA -- All state tournament victories are sweet.

An upset victory over a powerful defending sectional champ is a little sweeter.

And if that powerful defending sectional champ is Billerica and you are a Chelmsford kid, well...

"Nothing compares," said smiling Chelmsford High sophomore catcher Derek Adamson after the No. 11 seeded Lions stunned No. 3 Billerica, 5-0, in a Division 1 North quarterfinal on Saturday afternoon at Hall of Fame Field.

Chelmsford (12-10) did not qualify for the state tournament until its next-to-last regular-season game.

Chelmsford’s Quinn Cooney (7) and Mike Tice (20) celebrate the win over Billerica.SUN/JULIA MALAKIESun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our
Chelmsford's Quinn Cooney (7) and Mike Tice (20) celebrate the win over Billerica. SUN/JULIA MALAKIE

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Now the Lions have toppled Acton-Boxboro (and its Harvard-bound ace Noah Zavolas) and Billerica (and its Maine-bound ace Chris Murphy) to reach the Division 1 North semifinals.

"All year long the coach (Mike O'Keefe) told us to believe. That was the word at practice yesterday -- believe," said Chelmsford junior right-hander Mike Tice, who silenced Billerica, coolly pitching a four-hit shutout.

The Lions will on Thursday at Stoklosa/Alumni Field face another surprise team, No. 10 seed Methuen, in a D1 North semifinal. The top four seeds in the sectional are already out.

Billerica coach Joe Higgins praised his dejected Indians for another outstanding season. Billerica won a third straight Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 title and finished 14-6. The Indians defeated Everett in the first round of the state tournament.

Higgins also paid tribute to the Chelmsford Lions, for whom he will now root.

"It's kind of like (if) the Yankees (are in the World Series)," said Higgins, smiling. "You still want the American League to win. This is kind of the same scenario."

The Lions squeezed a lot out of little against Billerica's Chris Murphy, whose record was 6-0 coming into Saturday, including a 1-hitter in a 7-0 victory at Chelmsford on April 28.

Chelmsford had only four hits in this game. But two of four Chelmsford batters that Murphy struck out over his four innings of frustration also reached base, swinging and missing on balls that bounced past the catcher.

"Not that we planned to swing at those," said Chelmsford coach Mike O'Keefe. "I don't want anyone to think we're that smart."

A Mike DeDonato infield single to shortstop in the third inning scored Mark Keller with the Lions' first run. Keller had reached on a wild-pitch strike-three leading off the inning, stolen second and reached third on a groundout.

Then in the third inning, Chelmsford scored three runs on one hit -- an Eric Rose chopper in front of the plate that scored Adamson, who had been hit on the left hand by a Murphy fastball leading off the inning.

Chelmsford in that third inning squeezed everything possible out of a hit batter, a walk, two stolen bases, three wild pitches, a Billerica throwing error and a sacrifice fly. The Lions led 4-0.

Murphy over his four innings of work allowed four runs (3 earned) on three hits, two walks and two hit batters. He struck out four.

"For the most part, we made them have to make plays," said O'Keefe. "And (Murphy) got deep into a lot of counts. And it just worked out for us. You get guys on base, and the pressure situations work in the offense's favor."

Chelmsford's hardest-hit ball of the day was actually Jack Campsmith's screamer into left center on which Murphy's younger brother, junior center fielder Kyle, made a spectacular diving catch to end the top of the first and save a run.

"That was one of the best plays I've ever seen," said O'Keefe, fearing a trend. "He was sprawled out and caught it off every inch of his glove."

Once given the lead, Tice seized command, making it difficult for the Indians to guess when he would throw his fastball, changeup or curveball. "He's not afraid to throw any of them," said O'Keefe.

Tice (7 ip, 4h, 0r, 1bb, 2k) had Billerica's batters, their anxiousness growing, lunging off their front foots.

"It just showed how much heart that kid has," said Adamson. "Knowing that the odds were against him (matched up against Billerica's Murphy), he went out there and threw a hell of a game. We all trusted in him."

Adamson also personifies this Chelmsford team's perseverance. Besides being hit by two pitches, Adamson was in the fifth inning hit in the place catchers fear getting hit most. He remained in the game.

"I took a beating in this game," said Adamson, smiling. "As long as we get the W, that's what matters."

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