LOWELL – There was a sense of superiority and urgency for the Manchester Essex baseball team during Saturday’s MIAA Division 4 state final.
Years of hard work and determination from a veteran group led by captains Harry Painter, Dylan Wilson, and Luke Leavitt finally culminated with a historic finish.
At the end, Manchester Essex coach BJ Weed stood on the LeLacheur Park diamond nearly speechless after watching his senior leaders deliver the program’s first state title with a 5-2 victory over Tahanto Regional of Boylston.
“True champions come out at the right time,” said Weed.
“This whole team, seniors included, has absolutely led this team since the beginning. I can’t say enough about them. I am almost speechless more than anything else. This is almost like a dream to me.”
After the team’s traded a single run in the first inning, the Hornets (20-5) got out in front with two runs in the top half of the third.
With senior Will Janowitz in scoring position at second base, Painter (3 for 3, RBI) roped a single up the middle to Tahanto sophomore Adam Fuller. ME third base coach Kevin Winship initially held Janowitz, but when Fuller’s throw to the plate got by the catcher, the senior was able to scamper home from third.
Wilson collected his second RBI of the day a few batters later with a line drive to center field for a 3-1 lead.
Tahanto (17-7) got a run back in the bottom half of the third when Ethan Sauriol (3 for 3, 2 RBIs) singled up the middle.
But Manchester Essex responded with authority.
Leavitt and Painter combined for back-to-back doubles that knocked Stags’ sophomore starter Justin Wolfe out of the game, and pushed the margin 5-2.
Wilson came on to close out the final two innings after freshmen Kellan Heney and Vaughn O’Leary combined for the first five.
“Couldn’t ask for a better end to the story,” said Painter, the team’s ace who was sidelined all of his junior season with an arm injury.
”We have been working so hard the last four years. We have gotten close but to finally get here and win it, it feels amazing.”
Karl Capen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.