LOWELL — Evan Melo gave his head coach, Blair Bourke, a nod before stepping into the batter’s box.
With runners on the corners and the score tied, 3-3, in the sixth inning of Saturday’s MIAA Division 1 final, the senior knew what he had to do and he executed the task to perfection. Melo dropped a safety squeeze bunt down the first base line, scoring the go-ahead run from third and helping Taunton capture the program’s first state title with a 5-3 win over Shrewsbury at LeLacheur Park Saturday night.
The Tigers (21-7) added an insurance run in the seventh on Colby Lariviere’s sac fly before Logan Lawrence shut the door, retiring the final seven batters he faced to cap off the historic night — and the team’s 11th straight win — in front an energetic group of Taunton faithful.
“We bunt every time and I knew it was coming,” Melo said. “I’ve been doing squeezes my whole life, you just have to do your job and get the bunt down. We’ve just come together as a bunch of brothers and we love each other. That’s what it took.”
Lawrence recorded the first hit of the game for the Tigers in the fourth when he lined an RBI triple to center field. His pinch runner, Nolan Melo, scored a batter later on Jared Roderick’s safety squeeze for a 2-0 lead.
Taunton made it 3-0 in the fifth on Ty Cali’s single, but Shrewsbury tied it up in the home half of the inning on a two-out base knock by John West.
But the fourth seed from the South sectional battled back like they’ve done all season with Melo’s bunt proving to be the deciding factor.
“From day one the kids have been awesome,” Bourke said. “They challenge each other all season. We stress being prepared and they’ve taken it on themselves to do things on their own and that’s a testament to how hard they’ve worked all season.”
Matt Doherty can be reached at email@example.com.