LOWELL — Chelmsford High had its senior ace on the mound, a lefty who already had three no-hitters to his credit this season.
Lincoln-Sudbury countered with a freshman, who was being put under the mid-June postseason spotlight for the first time.
Everything seemed to be in line for the Lions to continue their excellent season. But the age-old "baseball is a funny game" adage came to fruition. Shea Ryan didn't have his best stuff for CHS and top-seeded Lincoln-Sudbury showed its persistence in a 5-4 victory over No. 4 Chelmsford at Alumni Field on Wednesday night in a Division 1 North baseball semifinal.
Ryan, the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 Player of the Year, lasted just 4.2 innings and was charged with all five runs on four hits and three walks. He struck out seven. The tell came early that Ryan was off his game when he walked the first three batters he faced in the bottom of the first and allowed L-S to even the game at 2-2 after he had been staked to an early advantage.
"He just didn't have it all today," said Chelmsford head coach Mike O'Keefe of Ryan. "He didn't have any other pitch, he just threw a fastball all game long. I give him a lot of credit, he competed with that. He hasn't walked three guys in a game all year, and he walked the first three guys. It's just the way it goes."
The Lions finished the season at 15-8. Lincoln-Sudbury (20-2) will face No. 7 Andover in the North final on Saturday.
Even in spite of that shaky start, Ryan retired 11 of the next 12 batters he faced after those three walks. But the Warriors finally caught up to that fastball in the fifth with three runs. Connor Peek doubled, Connor Lachman reached on an infield hit and went to second on a throwing error that allowed Peek to score. Jesse McCullough then had an RBI double and James Dillon tacked on an RBI single to make it 5-3.
Jack Beauchesne tossed the final 1.1 innings for Chelmsford.
"We expected to be playing Saturday. Give (L-S) credit, that's just the way it works," said O'Keefe. "It's a cruel game sometimes. We didn't do enough things, coaching-wise I didn't do enough things. We came up a little bit short, that's all."
The Lions grabbed the early 2-0 lead in the top of the first, without the help of a single hit. Senior Chris Rabias (1-for-2) led off with a walk and went to second on a wild pitch. Senior Chad Lizine was hit by a pitch and senior Carl Erickson moved the runners up with a groundball. Rabias scored on a passed ball and Lizine later scored on a dropped fly ball in left field.
The Warriors responded with two runs in the bottom half with the help of the aforementioned walks issued by Ryan. However, Chelmsford regained the lead in the top of the second when senior Michael Connor (2-for-3, two RBI, stolen base, walk) plated Michael Vecchione with a single.
Freshman starter Thomas Rogers got through three innings for Lincoln-Sudbury. Sophomore Robbie O'Connor pitched the final four frames to earn the win. He allowed one run on one hit and four walks.
Chelmsford put together a threat in the top of the sixth. Connor blasted a double that scored Vecchione and the Lions had runners on second and third with one out. The bid came to an end when Lizine lined out to shortstop and Rabias was thrown out retreating to third for the double play.
"We didn't play our best. I don't want to take anything away from Lincoln-Sudbury," said O'Keefe. "Just a little sloppy, we gave them a couple extra outs and they took advantage of us. It's disappointing, obviously. The kids played their hearts out. That's the game of baseball, hit one right on the nose and it ends up being a double play."
Chelmsford had five hits as a team and worked six walks.