LOWELL — At long last, Cody Clifford’s dream came true.
The Hingham senior, who dreamed Friday night about knocking a walkoff hit in the Harbormen’s Division 2 state championship game against Auburn, did just that Saturday at LeLacheur Park.
After 3 hours 31 minutes, Clifford lined a pinch-hit, two-out, bases-loaded single to right field to give the Harbormen a 7-6, 12-inning victory over the Rockets for the program’s first state title.
“Same exact feeling,” Clifford said, comparing the dream and real life. “I was picked up like a feather [by teammates]. They were all giving me pats on the head, I couldn’t believe it. I just shut my eyes and took in the moment. I was emotionally wasted.”
Hingham righthander John Carlson earned the win with eight strong innings of relief. He gave up just one run while striking out eight to notch the win.
“Carlson is one of the toughest kids,” coach Frank Niles said. “He’s a can-do guy, really thinks he can do it all the time, and he’s a battler he said, ‘I got plenty coach. I got all you need.’ I didn’t know how many pitches he had thrown, and it really didn’t matter.”
Carlson echoed that sentiment.
“I wasn’t coming out,” he said. “I was waiting till we won. Once we won, I was done.”
Clifford and Carlson aside, the game featured no shortage of heroes. The teams were tied at five headed into the seventh, then exchanged runs to build the drama.
Auburn’s Tyler LaMonda, who pitched seven innings during two separate stints on the mound, put down a near-perfect safety squeeze bunt to get Drew Goodrich across.
In the bottom half, Hingham junior Joseph Leahy launched a two-out RBI triple to right-center to tie it — again.
Long before Leahy’s hit into the gap, though, Hingham righthanded starter Evan Flanagan ran into trouble in the first. The first two Auburn batters got on, and senior Tyler Desjardins stole home.
Fortunately for Flanagan, his offense picked him up almost immediately.
Senior Stephen White led off the bottom half of the inning with a double to left-center, and Leahy drove him in with a double to left one batter later. Leahy later scored on junior Austin Irvin’s sacrifice fly.
Hingham added two more in the second. Designated hitter Matt Glenzel singled and eventually scored on a ground ball that ate up Auburn third baseman Zackary Tower, then White scored on a wild pitch.
Flanagan, however, was not his usual, sharp self on the mound. Auburn scored two runs in each of the third and fourth innings, the first pair coming when senior John Kewley sent a bases-loaded grounder to second. Daniel Scavone easily scored from third, and Zackary Tower’s heads-up base running allowed him to score from first for the rare two-RBI fielder’s choice.
After each team got a single run in the seventh, pitching took over. For Auburn, Michael Vaitkunas pitched the sixth and seventh innings, then took the ball again for the 10th-12th.
That set the stage for Carlson and Clifford’s extra-inning heroics.
“It was a great battle,” Niles said. “Two teams that showed really well here in the state finals.”