BROCKTON - It has been a while - 26 years, in fact - since North Reading coach Frank Carey reached the Division 3 state final.
Many things have changed since 1986, but the man behind North Reading baseball has not. And now, more than 650 victories and 48 years into his illustrious career, Carey will have a chance at state championship No. 5 after the Hornets advanced to the Division 3 title game with a 5-3 victory over East Bridgewater at Campanelli Stadium.
“We lost here [at Campanelli Stadium] to Carver in 2000, 1-0, but it’s nice to be back,’’ said Carey. “It’s great.’’
The Hornets (21-4) took the early lead when East Bridgewater starter Casey DeAndrade had difficulty finding the strike zone. After walking the first two batters, Dennis Rollfs and Thomas Day, sophomore Colby Maiola beat out a grounder that scored Rollfs and senior Kyle Boucher singled to score Day.
Down, 2-0, after one, the Vikings (18-5) began slowly chipping away. A sacrifice fly by junior Brett Palaschak brought in senior Brett DeBenedictis in the second to cut the deficit in half.
With one out in the third, East Bridgewater freshman Jake Pierce fought off an inside pitch and lifted it just inside the right field foul line for a double. DeAndrade followed with a stand-up triple to deep left-center and came around on a wild pitch to Austin Goldberg to give the Vikings a 3-2 lead.
Shoddy defense, however, did in the Vikings, who surrendered four unearned runs.
North Reading’s Keith Linnane stole second after being walked in the fourth. A throwing error on a routine grounder brought him in with the tying run.
In the fifth, two walks, a passed ball, and an error on a pickoff attempt brought in the go-ahead run and chased DeAndrade. With the bases loaded and no outs, sophomore Cam Troup allowed only one run on a passed ball, keeping the game in reach.
In the seventh, the Hornets got two quick outs before Ryley Warnock (seven innings, seven strikeouts) walked Tim O’Brien on four pitches.
Next up was Pierce, who grounded to short. Day went for the force at second base but threw it into short right, allowing Pierce and O’Brien to move to second and third.
Warnock intentionally walked DeAndrade, opting to deal with Goldberg in a bases-loaded situation. Goldberg drove a pitch to deep center, but Maiola hauled it in for the game’s final out.
“We had other opportunities to break the game open, but we could never seem to break the game open,’’ said Carey. “Hopefully we can do some things [mentally] that will help us out [next game].’’
The Hornets will meet Mt. Everett Saturday at Fitton Field in Worcester.