QUINCY — Matt Donahue mainly pitched for Medfield’s Junior Division team this summer. But on Thursday night, in a must-win situation, Donahue was tabbed to make his first start for the Senior Division team in the inaugural Massachusetts Independent Baseball League championship game.
The righthander admitted he had some nerves heading into the start, but he responded by delivering a gem to help keep Medfield’s season alive.
Donahue tossed six strong innings, allowing two unearned runs while navigating out of jams all game long, as third-seeded Medfield earned a 4-2 win over Ashland at Adams Field in Quincy. The two teams will meet again Friday night at 6 back at Adams Field for a winner-take-all championship game.
“I told him we’re going to need you in the playoffs because of the constant games and he told me he was ready,” said Medfield coach Rob Mintz. “He really matured today in a big game.”
To reach the finals vs. Ashland, Medfield knocked off Quincy, 7-6, in an elimination game earlier Thursday. Sam Palmer broke open the tie game with a go-ahead double in the sixth, and the River Rats bats stayed hot early on in their second matchup of the night.
After Ashland took a 1-0 lead in the first on a throwing error, Medfield got the run back in the next half inning on Jack Goodman’s RBI single.
In the third, Medfield took the lead for good during a three-run inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Ben Leonard lined a single down the right field line to plate a pair before Jack MacDonald followed with a liner to left for a 4-1 lead.
Donahue issued four hits and seven walks, but said he escaped each threat by going to his changeup. He also received help from catcher Michael Gilio, who threw out three Ashland base runners to end three innings.
“My changeup was getting a lot of ground balls so I just worked with that,” said Donahue, a rising junior at Medfield High. “A lot of the seniors, this is their last time playing and they’re giving it all they got. Being out there with them is a lot fun.”
Trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Ashland threatened by putting runners on second and third with no outs. Donahue induced a pair of groundouts and then walked Shea Donovan. However, the ball four pitch to Donovan scooted to the backstop and Dom Cavanagh came home. Gilio tracked the ball and tossed it to Donahue, who nabbed Cavanagh on a bang-bang play at the plate.
The play and situation was eerily similar to Wednesday night’s matchup when Ashland took a 4-3 lead over Medfield in the sixth on a two-run passed ball. This time, it ended Ashland’s best scoring chance of the game.
“I probably should have just held him,” said Ashland manager Jake Obid. “Hindsights 20-20, but it’s a tough break. I thought he definitely got in there.”
Thomas Shurtleff relieved Donahue and worked around a leadoff walk in the seventh to earn the save and set up Friday’s matchup.
Ashland, the top seed in the tournament, will throw its ace Tyler Dossas, who beat Hyde Park, 3-1,in an elimination game in pool play on Sunday.
“I’m really confident in us,” said Obid. “We got arguably our best guy on the mound tomorrow. We wanted to give him an extra day rest and I think it will pay off.”