WILMINGTON — Dracut High School has been no stranger to deep, cinderella playoff runs this year.
Back in the winter, the Middies boys basketball team entered the state tournament as a 12-seed and ended up making it all the way to the state semi-finals.
On Thursday afternoon, the 18th-seeded DHS baseball team began its bid to go on a deep tournament run as a low seed.
Behind an aggressive overall approach to the game and an outstanding performance from junior Patrick Crowley (6ip, 6h, 1er), the Middies captured an 11-1 victory to advance to the next round, where they will take on No. 2 Gloucester.
Dracut (10-11) was fueled by the performance it got on the mound from Crowley. The junior walked one batter and struck out one batter. As indicated by the low strikeout number, Crowley relied on his defense behind him, and that was by design going into the game.
"Just throw strikes," he said of his plan of attack. "That's how it's been all year, if you throw strikes and let the field (behind you) do the work, there's nothing better than that."
Dracut got to work on offense in the second inning against Wilmington's Tristan Ciampa (5ip, 4er, 7h, 3bb, 5k). Devin Lambert started things off with a triple to deep right-center.
Lambert was driven in by the next batter, John Cormier, and the Middies gained a 1-0 advantage. Four batters later Sean McMeniman (two hits, two RBI) came up with a clutch two-out single into left field that pushed across two more runners and put the Middies ahead 3-0.
For Dracut, a big part of its success came from aggression. The Middies swung at quality pitches and tried to take the extra base as often as they possibly could.
"That's our style," said Dracut head coach Steve Talbot. "We tend to be a little bit aggressive, some people will say we're too aggressive. Sometimes we run into outs.
"We're not one of these teams that will bang out 12 or 14 hits in a game, we try to put the pressure on and just move the baseball. I thought our guys did a really good job of swinging at hitter's pitches today and not pitcher's pitches, and it showed and we drove the baseball a little bit today."
That aggression showed up again in the sixth inning. Dracut scored two runs, one of which was after a passed ball and the other the result of a balk. The attacking style of play forced Wilmington into mistakes.
In the seventh inning, Dracut exploded for five more runs, headlined by Crowley clearing the bases with a two-out, three-run double. That swing capped off a great day for the junior and was the final punch in his teams dominant victory.
Wilmington's lone run of the day came on a double by Brendon George, which scored Gavin Kelsey. For Dracut, Lambert pitched the seventh inning and closed down the game, allowing only one hit.
The Middies will now face No. 2 Gloucester on Saturday, a team they faced once this season and lost, 2-1, in a tightly contested game.
Despite being a low-seed and an underdog, the Middies know they belong here, according to Talbot.
"For us, being the smallest school in the MVC, our toughest part is just getting into the tournament, I think," said Talbot. "Division 3 has some great baseball teams."
Last year, the Middies entered the tournament as the 14-seed and ended up knocking off third-seeded Brighton in a shutout and sixth-seeded Gloucester, 3-2, before bowing out to Lynnfield in the semifinals by a final score of 5-4.
"Last year's experience really helped us and we lost all those guys, but these guys were around the program and they know the toughest part for us is to get there," Talbot said.
Maybe a repeat of the winter is in order for Dracut High athletics.