LOWELL — After a week’s worth of off-field controversy heading into Saturday’s Division 1 North semifinal, there was still a baseball game to be played. And it turned out to be a thriller.
Chelmsford rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh inning, then hung on for 7-5 victory over Methuen at LeLacheur Park.
“Wow,” Chelmsford coach Mike O’Keefe said after the win. “That’s a good way to describe it.”
Both teams were not pleased with the MIAA’s decision to schedule the game Saturday morning due to the conflict with SAT testing, along with Chelmsford’s 4 p.m. graduation. After both schools threatened to boycott the game Friday morning, they decided to play, giving their players who planned on taking the standardized tests the choice of whether to play.
Methuen’s Josue Martinez, William Haneffant, and Patrick Menihane, along with Chelmsford’s Alexander Hill, Michael Tice, Benjamin Sauter, and Quinn Jackson missed the game for SATs.
Both teams honored their missing teammates by laying out their jerseys on the field during the national anthem.
“We had a meeting this morning and I told the guys, it is what it is at this point,” said O’Keefe, whose team beat its Merrimack Valley Conference rivals for the third time this season. “We were not going to make it an excuse at all. Guys had to step up and they absolutely did.”
Chelmsford juniors Jack Hansbury and Quinn Cooney both arrived in the first inning after finishing their one-subject SAT testing.
Hansbury delivered in the seventh inning with the go-ahead RBI. Michael Koechlin’s sacrifice fly to left field scored John Campsmith for the insurance run. Jesse Ashley earned the victory.
Methuen had rallied for five runs on two hits and six walks in the sixth inning to take their first lead of the game, 5-4.
“They fought like heck,” Methuen coach Eric Cyr said of his 10th-seeded Rangers. “This is where we were. Chelmsford was going to show up, so were we. It didn’t faze [the players] at all.”
The 11th-seeded Lions will meet another MVC foe, Andover, in the sectional final on Sunday at 6 p.m., at Lynn’s Fraser Field. Chelmsford lost to Andover twice during the regular season.