WORCESTER — With a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over North Reading on Saturday at Fitton Field, Groton-Dunstable completed the MIAA’s first undefeated baseball season since 2008 and won the Division 3 state championship.
North Reading opened the scoring in the top of the third inning when senior second baseman Shawn DiVecchia sliced a triple down the right-field line to score junior left fielder Jeff Mejia.
Groton-Dunstable senior starter Justin Watt found more trouble in the fourth. After retiring the first two batters, Watt allowed a walk and two singles, the latter hit by junior catcher John Merullo driving in two.
“That’s the first time we’ve been down by three runs all year,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Matt LeBlanc. “Justin beared down there though and we got that one big inning to get back into it.”
Watt’s teammates came to the rescue in the fifth, tagging North Reading senior hurler Greg Johnson for four runs. Junior designated hitter Joe Simeone’s RBI double gave the Crusaders (23-0) their first lead at 4-3. They added another run in the sixth.
Johnson pitched five innings, giving up seven hits and five runs while striking out three.
“Jake [Barnes] drove in two runs before me with a big two-out hit,” Simeone said. “I saw him do that and just wanted to follow his lead.”
North Reading refused to go quietly, though. Watt took the mound in the seventh in an attempt to go the distance, but was relieved by Simeone after allowing two base runners. Watt went 6⅓ innings, striking out eight while allowing eight hits and four runs.
With one out and runners on second and third, North Reading senior shortstop Tyler Calos cut the deficit to 5-4 with a sacrifice fly to center.
Senior Michael Driscoll attempted to take home on the play after catching the Crusaders’ defense out of position, but the plate umpire had called time out after the initial run.
After two walks loaded the bases, Groton-Dunstable junior second baseman Christopher Lattini made a diving stop on a ground ball up the middle and a force out at second sealed the Crusaders’ perfect season.
“The undefeated mark just kind of makes you smile,” LeBlanc said. “I couldn’t think of a better group. I’m just so happy for them.”