MILFORD — For the second straight game, Milford was stunned by a line drive into left field. This time it was Leominster’s Brandon Arsenault roaring to his dugout from third base after driving in the tying and go-ahead runs in the top of the seventh inning.
Leominster earned its chance to play on the final day of the Massachusetts American Legion Senior Baseball Tournament, stunning the hosts at Fino Field with a seven-run seventh inning to take the 9-8 win.
On Thursday at 4, Leominster will take on unbeaten Franklin, which roared back for a 7-6 win the nightcap to eliminate Greenfield.
“It was great, it was one of the best feelings ever,” Arsenault said. “Being down six runs in the seventh inning, I guarantee nobody thought we could come back, but we believed in our bench and stuck together.”
Milford chased Leominster rising junior Angel Baez from the game, scoring three runs in both the third and fourth innings. By the time it got to the seventh, it was 8-2, and coach Jeffrey Dedeian said he was trying to get some of his players at-bats in “their last game ever probably playing baseball.”
“Mysterious things happened,” Dedeian said. “We were just throwing things at the wall, we told guys to take a few pitches here and there and some things worked themselves out. All the sudden we had one or two guys on and things happened.”
Fitchburg alum Michael Cooper (2 for 3, walk) and Leominster graduate Ryan Fava each recorded RBIs in the seventh before Arsenault’s game-changing rip. All but two of the runs Milford allowed were unearned.
“I’m still speechless, I’m not even sure what happened,” Dedeian said.
Leominster alum Nicolas Garcia came in for the save, with the adrenaline of the comeback coursing through him. He threw eight of nine pitches for strikes to close it out.
“It was pure joy,” he said. “It was one hell of a game.”
With two outs in the sixth inning of the second game, six straight Franklin batters reached base to score five runs and erase a 6-2 deficit, which was 6-0 midway through the fourth, to top Greenfield.
Christopher Goode (2 for 4, stolen base) and Jase Lyons (2 for 3, walk) both hit two-run doubles, and Jacob Crisileo (2 for 3, walk) had the go-ahead RBI single.
“Once we got some momentum going in the game, we knew we had to do something,” Lyons said. “I got up with all the confidence, knowing I would do something with it with two guys on. I got my pitch and ripped it.”
Crisileo called his hit a breakthrough moment for himself.
“It feels great,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been in that position before and I haven’t executed as well. To execute now feels amazing. I’ve always had the confidence in myself, but I wanted to show that I can actually do it.”
All but one member of the Franklin Post team is from Franklin High School, where coach Tyler Pasquarosa said the culture is very strong.
“They’re a really resilient group of kids,” Pasquarosa said. “They’re never nervous. They play very loose and I think that helps us out, especially in a game like this. They never really lost confidence.”
Franklin needs one win to capture the title and advance to regional play. Leominster must win twice to advance.
AJ Traub can be reached at email@example.com.