MEDFORD — The Medford baseball team thrives on putting pressure on the opposing defenses.
And in the most crucial most of Monday’s Division 1 North quarterfinal matchup against Peabody, the second-seeded Mustangs delivered again.
In a 5-5 game in the bottom of the sixth, No. 9 hitter David Welch bunted for a hit to put runners on the corners with one out. The next batter, sophomore Zack Paolillo, launched a run-scoring triple to deep center on a hit-and-run play to put Medford ahead.
Paolillo then scored on a wild pitch, capping a decisive five-run inning in an 8-5 win over the second-seeded Tanners.
The Mustangs (15-6) advance to play Lowell (14-7) in a semifinal Wednesday night (Alumni Field, Lowell).
“The kids fought,” Medford coach Mike Nestor said. “We put the ball in play and made them make the plays and that’s what it’s all about. We try to execute hit and runs and bunts and go from there. If we execute all those plays and make the routine defensive plays we can play with anyone.”
Peabody opened up a 3-1 lead in the third, but Medford stormed back.
Catcher Brendon Kelly (2 for 3, 2 RBIs) laced a single off Tanner starter Alex D’Angelo (5 innings, 8 hits, 3 runs, 7 strikeouts) in the fourth to knot the game, 3-3.
Medford senior Jack Fargo (4 innings, 5 hits, 5 runs, 7 strikeouts) allowed the first two batters to reach in the fifth, prompting Nestor to call on Jacob Whistler. On the first pitch Whistler, Bryant-bound shortstop Jake Gustin (2 for 3) ripped a double to the gap to put Peabody in front, 5-3.
But Medford battled back again, stringing together five hits in the home half of the sixth off reliever Eddie Campbell.
“We all pick each other up,” Paolillo said. “It was a hit and run and I just had to get the bat on the ball and get it in the gap. It was great. Best feeling of my life.”
Whistler (2 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 2 strikeouts) earned the win and lefthander Mike Nestor Jr. fired a perfect seventh inning to pick up the save.
“They’re a veteran team and nothing phases them,” Nestor said. “But they did it and it shows a lot of leadership.”Matt Doherty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.