TAUNTON -- One year ago Thursday, the Lowell Catholic baseball team defeated the Pope John Paul II Lions of Hyannis for the school's first-ever state championship with a 1-0 walkoff win.
The 2014 Crusaders (21-3) again took on the unbeaten Lions (26-0) in a Division 4 state semifinal game at Wheaton College on Wednesday afternoon under cloudy skies, but near perfect spring weather for baseball.
Walkoff lightning would not strike twice against the same team, as the Lions came from behind in their final at bats to revenge last year's loss and defeat the Crusaders, 6-4.
"I am very proud of this team from players one through seventeen," said third-year LC head coach Matt Stone. "The past two years, these kids have helped to put Lowell Catholic on the map.
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"You just never know if you are going to get back to the big game. I am proud of how our seniors led the underclassmen and it will pay off next season. We played cleanly (defense) and had our chances to score, but we just couldn't capitalize. Despite the final score, I still couldn't be prouder."
After a scoreless first two frames, Pope John Paul got on the board in the third with three singles off LC starter Tom Cahalane (3-plus innings, 2 runs, 2 earned runs, 3 hits, 2 walks), including an RBI line drive to center field by catcher Brady Jones.
Second baseman Matt Santos sacrificed home Blake Waters to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
Crusader reliever Kyle Rafferty (4 ip, 4 h, 4 r, 4 er, 3 bb) came on in the fourth inning to shut down the visitors. Lowell Catholic got on the board in the same inning when Jesse Caisse reached on a fielder's choice to drive home Nick Cervizzi.
Pope John shortstop Mike Young replaced Lions' starter Ben Gibson with the bases loaded. The Crusaders managed the equalizer run with a bases-loaded Matt Franchi walk, but failed to capitalize further and the score was knotted 2-2 after four.
The Lions earned an RBI walk of their own in the top of the fifth from Kevin Marsh's pass to first base.
A Connor Sullivan leadoff double, a Cervizzi walk and Caisse RBI single gave the Crusaders their first lead of the day at 4-3 after five innings. Each team was retired one-two-three in the sixth.
In the seventh inning, a single, walk and Young two-run double put Pope John back in front. Young would later tag up and score an insurance run from third to make the score 6-4 in favor of Pope John entering the final half frame.
The Crusaders advanced a runner to second but were unable to capitalize, and the final score held.
Cervizzi went 2-for-2, walked twice and scored a pair of runs for Lowell Catholic. Designated hitter Dan Gillette also had multiple hits. He went 2-for-3.
The result snapped a 14-game winning streak for Lowell Catholic and gave Pope John Paul II a ticket back to the MIAA state championships this Saturday (12 p.m.) at Holy Cross against Hopkins High School.