BROCKTON — The Braintree Wamps are the only team to defeat the Newton North Tigers this spring. The two Bay State Conference foes split their regular season series 1-1, with the road team prevailing 2-1 each outing. After Braintree eliminated Bridgewater-Raynham 9-2 in the Super 8 semifinals at Brockton Rox Stadium on Sunday night, the conference rivals will square off in an all-wooden bat matchup for the tournament’s inaugural title back on the Rox’s field on Monday at 4 p.m..
“I’m so happy for the Bay State Conference,” head coach Billy O’Connell said. “I always thought it would be great if we could meet up in this thing, but I never thought it would be for the state championship.”
The Trojans’ dynamic lineup has been lauded all season, but it was Braintree’s bats that came alive in the win-or-go-home battle. Junior designated Colin Rios personified O’Connell’s strategy of patience and poise under the Futures League field’s bright lights.
After striking out in his first three at-bats, Rios smacked a base-loaded single dribbling into center field to plate two in the top of the seventh. Rios’ single was the back-breaker in the Wamps’ three-run frame that broke open what was a 4-1 game.
“Baseball’s just a funny game,” Rios said. “I was thinking, that’s all it was. I just got ahead in that fourth at-bat and saw a fastball. Thankfully, it went right up the middle.”
B-R barely managed to create scoring opportunities of their own thanks to Braintree junior starter Bob McNiff. After playing 9-inning games all season, the Wamps’ staff has been well prepared for the format of the Super 8. McNiff hurled 103 pitches in seven innings of work, scattering four hits and allowing just two earned runs. He struck out three and walked three.
McNiff said he received a scouting report from Stoughton, who defeated B-R on May 16, which guided him throughout the outing and helped the starter shut down the Trojans No. 3 and No. 4 hitters.
“It said to go with a lot of off-speed stuff against [Joe] Freiday and [Andrew] Noviello,” McNiff said. “With Noviello, I threw a changeup a lot and with Freiday I threw a lot of curves.”
Braintree will have to beat Newton North twice in order to capture the Super 8 crown, as the tournament has a double-elimination format. The Tigers, meanwhile, can capture the championship with a win on Monday. If Braintree wins the deciding game will be Thursday.