Sam Feeley

Sep 282014

It took them over an hour to get on the scoreboard, but the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders boys’ soccer team eventually validated their dominating effort with a 2-1 victory over the Hudson Hawks at G-DRHS Thursday.

The Crusaders dominated the stat sheet, with more shots (21-7), fewer fouls (7-10), and vastly fewer offside calls, while keeping the ball in the Hudson half of the field for the majority of the game. But the Hawks got on the scoreboard first in the 12th minute when Joao Mendes headed the ball in the net off a corner kick from the opposite side.

“This was an important game for us today,” G-D head coach Sean Wisbey said. “We really wanted to win this game so we would be 5-0 (in league play). I was pleased to get the win … I thought we played very flat in the first half. I thought Hudson’s intensity was better. They won the 50-50 balls.”

After the offensive frustration continued into the second half, the Crusaders pulled even in the 64th minute as Matt Krikorian flicked the ball over Hudson goalie Ryan Lyman’s diving attempt. Eleven minutes later, Wheeler sprang Krikorian free down the right sideline, and Krikorian beat Lyman one-on-one for the game-winner.

“I’m encouraged that these guys didn’t give up in the second half,” Wisbey added. “They kept going at it … You have to understand you’re going to have highs and lows. (The North Middlesex game) might have brought our level of play down a little bit today.”

The Hawks (4-4-1, 2-2-1 Mid-Wach B) mustered one last rush toward the goal in the final minutes, but senior goalie Chris Buzan made two crucial saves, one on a bullet right into his arms and another on a leaping deflection. A third attempt sailed wide of goal, and the final whistle blew immediately after.

“It wasn’t our best performance of the season,” Wisbey said. He may be right — four of the Crusaders’ six wins have been by at least two goals, including scores of 6-1 against Tyngsborough, 6-2 against Marlborough, and 8-2 against North Middlesex.

The Crusaders (6-1, 5-0 Mid-Wach B) will be on the road against defending Division 4 state champion Sutton Saturday morning at 11 a.m. On Tuesday, they’ll travel to Algonquin for a game against the Tomahawks, whom Wisbey regards as the best team in Central Massachusetts.

“We’ve got some good tests coming up for us,” Wisbey said. “Overall, I’m happy with where we are.”

Sep 212014

HUDSON — The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders overcame numerous illnesses and injuries to register their second straight double-digit road win Friday night, a 23-6 victory over the Hudson Hawks at the Morgan Bowl.

With starting quarterback Corey Romich out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, wide receiver/defensive back Ryan Heinser out for the season, and several players active but under the weather, the Crusaders were battling before the first snap of the game. Backup quarterback Michael Tammaro played his first ever varsity game and completed four of 10 passes for 30 yards and an interception while rushing nine times for -6 yards. G-D head coach Derek Asadoorian said that the game plan changed considerably to work well with Tammaro instead of Romich as quarterback.

“We have to make sure we’re giving him plays that he can run comfortably,” Asadoorian said. “My advice to him was, ‘Look, we don’t need you to be a hero. Just go out and execute.’”

Luckily for the Crusaders, they had two key playmakers that guided the offense: Shane Dawson (242 all-purpose yards, 2 TDs) and Joey Orlando (20 carries, 137 yards, 1 TD).

After the Hawks went three-and-out on the first drive of the game, the Crusaders offense drove 60 yards on three plays in just 66 seconds to get the game’s first touchdown. Dawson opened the drive with a 44-yard rush, then scored two plays later on a 22-yard pass from Tammaro.

Later on in the first quarter, an interception by Will Mitchell set the Crusaders up at the Hudson 42, T time, Orlando was the featured back. He rushed four times for 34 yards on the drive, capping it off with an 11-yard touchdown scamper on a handoff while the Hudson defense bit on a fake pitch to Dawson.

“We came out of the gates really fast,” Asadoorian said. “We were able to get a lead before they were able to make some adjustments, which is a little different with our second-string quarterback.”

The Crusader defense was outstanding again, holding the Hawks (0-2) to just 80 yards of total offense. The Hawks’ only score came late in the first quarter on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Armel Conyers to Jack Cannistraro.

“I thought our defense stepped up,“ Asadoorian lauded. “We’re playing well on that side of the ball.”

After a stagnant second quarter by both teams, the Crusaders remained up by only a touchdown at halftime. Whatever Asadoorian said during the intermission worked, as the Crusaders stormed out of the gate to all but put the game out of reach. In even less time than their first touchdown drive (51 seconds), Dawson broke off consecutive runs of 15, 64, and 1 to score his second touchdown of the game and put the Crusaders up 20-6.

Eric Yanchenko tacked on a 31-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to put the icing on the cake.

“I’m proud of the guys,” Asadoorian said. “We overcame a lot of adversity and we played hard tonight.”

The Crusaders (2-0) will play their first home game of the season next Friday, September 26, against Marlborough.

Sep 192014

Boys’ soccer

The Crusaders XI have outscored their opponents 15-6 in their first four games en route to a 3-1 record. They have scored six goals in a game twice, including the season opener at Tyngsborough and Tuesday at home vs. Marlborough. Their only loss thus far has come in a nonleague contest against Division 1 side Westford. They have back-to-back away games on Friday against Westborough and the 23rd at North Middlesex before playing their next home game on the 25th against Hudson.

Girls’ soccer

Madison Tammaro certainly hasn’t been playing like a freshman in goal as she fills in for the injured senior Elysa Briggs. She started the season with back-to-back clean sheets (3-0 victory over Tyngsborough on September 4th and a scoreless tie against Quabbin on September 11th) before allowing her first goal as part of a 7-1 rout of Marlborough on Tuesday. The Crusaders host Westborough on Thursday.

Field hockey

Head coach Rachel Connerty will be the first to admit that her team struggles offensively. They have scored more than one goal in a game only once this season — a 3-1 victory over Shepherd Hill that so far stands as their only win this season. Despite their 1-4-1 record, there’s no quit in these girls, and they will use their speed and athleticism as they look to eclipse last year’s 2-14-2 mark. Their next game is Friday at home vs. North Middlesex.

Boys’ cross-country

Ken Magliozzi’s squad dropped their opening meet of the season to Hudson, 27-30. G-D placed six runners in the top 10: junior Nick Odell (second place, 18:32) and Ben Hauk (fourth, 18:57), senior Erik McIntosh (seventh), senior Cam Ticknor (eighth), junior Brendan Meyews (ninth), and junior Kyle Carbutt (10th).

Girls’ cross-country

Colleen Naboicheck’s runners defeated Hudson, 15-50, by claiming all of the top 10 places. All of the G-D runners finished at least 30 seconds faster than their time trial last week. Freshman Emily Wilson finished in first place at 21:33, with Emily McAuliffe finishing just one second behind. Rounding out the top five were junior Samantha Ferraro and freshmen Sarah Mullins and Megan Odell.

Both the boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams will be at Nashoba on Tuesday, September 23rd.

I’ll be at tonight’s G-D football game at Hudson as the Crusaders look to put up another strong effort on both sides of the ball and go to 2-0. Follow me on Twitter (@SamFeeleyPBP) for updates throughout the game starting at 7 p.m.

Sep 132014

The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders spread the love in their season-opening win over the Gardner Wildcats Friday night at Gardner High School. Four different players — Shane Dawson, Corey Romich, Drew Moore, and Joey Orlando — scored a touchdown en route to a 36-13 stomping.

After each team went three and out on their first series, G-D drew first blood with 2:52 to go in the first. Dawson fielded a punt at his own 35 and returned it virtually untouched for a touchdown. Eric Yanchenko (six points, including a 24-yard field goal) tacked on the extra point, and it was 7-0 Crusaders.

After the Crusader defense forced another punt, the offense got its first touchdown of the game with a four-play, 69-yard drive that took just 1:31 off the clock. Two of the plays went for 25+ yards, and it was capped off by a 13-yard rush by Romich.

“We’re just trying to call the right play,” G-D head coach Derek Asadoorian said. “We’re not keeping track of who gets it, but we certainly have some kids who have a nose for the end zone.”

The Crusaders only amassed 234 yards of offense, but that was a product of the short fields their defense and special teams allowed them to work with. The Wildcats were held to just 131 yards, including a mere 47 in the first half.

G-D’s effort was not immaculate. They had ball control issues all night, fumbling four times. They only lost one of them, but it cost them seven points in the second quarter. After Romich fumbled at his own 23, Matthew Seward found Dominic Martins down the right sideline for the score on the very next play.

“That gave them a little life,” Asadoorian said. “It was a little adversity, but we kept battling … [in] the first game, that’s typically a problem. A lot of teams are just getting the timing down when it’s full speed. Scrimmages don’t do you justice. Something we always preach is ball security, and we’ll continue to address it as we always do.”

The Crusaders responded well, with a 28-yard Romich-to-Moore touchdown pass that put the Crusaders up 20-7 midway through the second. Gardner (0-1) would not score again until late in the fourth quarter, and they couldn’t hold on to the ball very well either, losing two of three fumbles.

The Crusaders tacked on two more touchdowns in the second half on runs by Orlando and Dawson. They scored all their touchdowns on plays of 13 yards or more, and could have had one more touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 55-yard option keeper by backup quarterback Michael Tammaro. However, his fake was so good that the referees whistled the play dead, thinking running back Joey Silva had taken the handoff and was stopped at the line of scrimmage.

“The boys have worked hard, and I thought we came out tonight and executed the game plan,” Asadoorian lauded. “We were fortunate to get a couple turnovers … it was a great effort overall, and we took advantage of our opportunities.”

The Crusaders (1-0) will travel to Hudson to take on the Hawks next Friday, September 19, at 7 p.m.

Sep 072014

GROTON — Groton-Dunstable Crusaders girls’ soccer head coach Steve Naboicheck admitted he was biting his tongue for much of the first half of his team’s season opener against the Tyngsboro Tigers Thursday. He thought their ball movement and pace of play were lagging in the opening stages.

But the Crusaders eventually found their groove and cruised to a 3-0 victory at G-DRHS, thanks to two goals by senior forward Ariana Lacombe and a great performance in net by freshman goalie Madison Tammaro.

After a sluggish start, the Crusaders began to generate offensive chances and kept the ball in the attacking half for much of the first half. Lacombe opened the scoring with just over 20 minutes gone by when her corner kick kept hooking and into the net past Tyngsborough goalie Sydney Fagundes.

“I thought they started out nervous, and they had to solve the problem, and they [did that],” Naboicheck said. “They started to play, and they started to get their shape, and … believe in where they could put their passes … it was literally like standing on the sidelines and watching them learn.”

With 17 minutes gone by in the second half, the Crusaders struck again. Katie Wogan delivered a corner kick that landed in the box and pinballed off several Crusader and Tiger players before Kara Jussaume, with an assist by Danielle Johnson, buried it from just outside the 6-yard box to make it 2-0.

Tammaro, who didn’t have her goalie jersey on hand and had to wear a yellow mesh pullover, got the start for the injured senior netminder Elysa Briggs. She made five saves, mostly on shots by Tyngsborough striker Olivia Notini. She had Tammaro beat on a flick from 30 yards out with just under 10 minutes left in the game, but it went over the crossbar and out of play, marking the best — and last — offensive opportunity for the Tigers.

“[Tammaro]‘s got athleticism, guts, determination, and fearlessness,” Naboicheck lauded. “That’s what you want for a goalkeeper. I’m really pleased with her. We’re hoping to get Elysa back in the mix, but right now … Maddie’s doing a great job.”

Fagundes made 10 saves, but she was outclassed by the barrage of Crusader shots (G-D outshot Tyngsborough 20-8) and two “prayer balls,” as Naboicheck dubbed them, off the foot of Lacombe, including the final goal of the game with under two minutes to play from 40 yards out.

“That’s not how we want to score our goals, but we’ll take ‘em,” Naboicheck said. “What we’ve been working on with the strikers is getting the ball on the net, and that’s what [Lacombe] did.”

The Crusaders outshot the Tigers 20-8 and had eight corner kicks compared to just two for the visitors.

“This has the potential to be the strongest team I have coached since joining the program,” Naboicheck said. “We have a talented group of experienced players and if they are willing to put in the hard work on a consistent basis they should achieve results the a G-D girls’ soccer team has not experienced in many years.”

The Crusaders (1-0) will host Quabbin next Thursday at 4 p.m.

Aug 302014

Groton-Dunstable Crusaders head football coach Derek Asadoorian is taking the preseason one day at a time. Coming off scrimmages this week with Westford last Saturday, Dracut on Tuesday, and Littleton on Friday, he said, “The biggest game right now is our first one against Gardner (Friday, September 12). We’re on our way. The goal is to get better every day.”

A one-day-at-a-time approach is what a team like G-D needs, considering two of Asadoorian’s concerns are his team’s depth and ability to stay healthy.

The 2013 Crusaders faced an uphill battle when starting quarterback Quintin Forbes missed six games with an injury. Corey Romich filled in admirably, but the team finished 5-6 in 2013 (2-3 Mid-Wach B), falling to the second-seed Hudson Hawks in the MIAA Division 4 Central quarterfinals. Forbes returned in time for the Thanksgiving finale against Tyngsboro and accounted for four of the team’s five touchdowns in a 35-21 victory over the Tigers.

Now, with Forbes graduated, Romich, a junior, has the keys to the offense. The team has a slew of veterans on tap to kick the door the rest of the way open: four senior offensive linemen — David Fei, Andy Femia, P.J. Kendall, and Ronnie Peck — and two senior offensive playmakers — running back Joey Orlando and wide receiver Drew Moore.

“We run a high-tempo offense that relies a lot on communication,” Asadoorian said. “We’re option-based. There’s a lot to learn mentally as well as physically. But the kids that are returning from last year, even our sophomores, have picked up the intensity well and are really studying well.”

Last Saturday’s scrimmage against Westford was indicative of the areas that Asadoorian feels will be his team’s strengths and weaknesses. The Crusaders didn’t have many big plays on offense, but picked up consistent medium-yardage chunks that kept the ball moving. Their speed was also on display on both sides of the ball.

Westford had a big play in their final offensive series on a swing pass that set them up at the G-D 3-yard line, but the Crusader defense imposed their will and prevented the Grey Ghosts from getting into the end zone. Asadoorian said that his team’s success will hinge on limiting plays like that.

“I was really happy with the defense,” Asadoorian said. “I thought we were stout in the middle … offensively, I thought we a had a high tempo on our first drive … our backs were running hard and we were getting decent blocking … [Romich] was executing well.”

“We’re happy with where we’re at. It’s our first test. I thought both teams showed some good things out there. It’s just a place to start from, and we’ll build from here.”

The Crusaders’ final scrimmage is at Clinton on Friday, September 6th. Asadoorian uses the scrimmages to help his team improve on its overall performance clean up some plays. Hs is entering his seventh season at the helm of the Crusaders.

Even with the day-by-day approach, there’s still one long-term goal for Asadoorian’s team: “This is just a starting point, and we’re hoping we play our best game on Thanksgiving.”

Jun 052014

The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders boys’ lacrosse team is continuing its impressive season in postseason tournament play, but the girls’ lacrosse team saw its season come to a heartbreaking end on Tuesday.

ARLINGTON — Despite the faceoffs (11-8 in favor of the Crusaders) and ground balls (24 each) not being lopsided in either direction, the sixth-seed Crusaders made the most of their possessions and played better defensively, allowing them to defeat the second-seed Arlington Catholic Cougars, 11-5, in a Division 3 Central/East semifinal Wednesday at Arlington Catholic.

The Cougars opened the scoring 1:50 into the first quarter, as Danny Needham forced a ground ball and sprinted his way to the net for a shot that beat Crusader goalie P.J. Kendall (eight saves) over his left shoulder.

But the Crusaders would take over from there, scoring the next five goals. With 9:01 to go in the first, Ryan Dodge found Nick Irby for a goal right in front of Cougar goalie Louie Wolk (12 saves) on the man advantage. Later in the quarter, Irby would return the favor, feeding Dodge for his first of two in the quarter and three on the game.

With 7:10 to go in the second quarter, Austin Hourani scored while falling down after taking a hard check. With less than two minutes to go before halftime, Ryan Henser got on the scoreboard by taking the ball all the way to the net from midfield after a clearance attempt by the Cougars went out of bounds.

The Cougars clawed their way back into the game with two goals in the first 65 seconds of the second half, including Needham’s second goal of the game just 32 seconds in, a mirror image of his first goal. But the Crusaders settled down and scored two more goals, including one by Irby while he was being knocked down in front of the net, to pump their lead back up to four.

“It was a quick turnover that we weren’t expecting,” Crusaders head coach Rick Arena said. “The tide could have turned at that point … we tightened up like we usually do, we settled down, and we got it back in control. [G-D] all year has been unfazed by situations like that, and they’re very resilient, so it was just a matter of time before they got back to doing what they wanted to do.”

HARVARD — On Tuesday, the fourth-seed girls’ team suffered a heartbreaking defeat, as the top-seed Bromfield Trojans scored the game-winning goal with two seconds left in regulation to eke out the 14-13 victory in a Division 2 Central/West semifinal at Bromfield.

Livy Penney led the Crusaders with three goals and four assist. Also getting on the scoresheet were Sara Walsh (four goals), Nicki Wilkinson (two goals), Sophie Irby, Caitlynn Berube, and Olivia Aumais (one goal each). Liv Rebeski also added a goal and three assists in her final game. She scored 103 points this season alone. Goalie Maria Antonellis made nine saves.

While the Crusaders’ attack was spread out, the Trojans relied on just two players for their offense: Sophia Turchetta (11 goals) and Jackie Plachet (three goals, two assists). Goalie Julia Hoggins stood tall in net and made 14 saves.

The Lady Crusaders finished their season at 12-8.

The Crusaders put the game away in the fourth quarter with three goals in the span of 2:17. Zach Cotoni scored a hat trick of his own, with all three goals coming in the second half.

“[The Cougars are] a good team, and they were doing what we thought they were going to do,” Arena said. “But our defense played very well … offensively, we held the ball, we were patient, we knew they were going to be tough on us and come out and extend, and then we were able to take advantage of some of the opportunities we had.”

Perhaps more impressive than the boys winning their second straight playoff game on the road against a higher seed was that the win gave Arena his 100th career win, becoming only the fourth coach in Central Massachusetts to achieve the feat and earning him a Gatorade bath for his efforts.

“I didn’t know that happened,” Arena said. “I’ve had a lot of good players and good teams, so that’s how I got here. It’s been a long time, and I guess if anybody coaches long enough, you’re going to get there.”

The Crusaders (12-8) travel to top-seed Dover-Sherborn for the sectional final Saturday at 4 p.m.

“Dover-Sherborn is one of the best teams in the state,” Arena said. “It’s going to be a heck of a game.”

ASHLAND — The sixth-seed Groton-Dunstable Crusaders boys’ lacrosse team defeated the third-seed Ashland Clockers by a score of 10-8 Saturday at Ashland High School in an MIAA Division 3 Central/East quarterfinal matchup.

The Clockers led 4-2 in the first quarter before the Crusaders went on a 7-0 run to take 9-4 lead into the fourth. The Clockers stormed back and cut the deficit to 10-8 with four goals in the fourth quarter, but the Crusaders managed to run out the final 1:26 after the Clockers’ last goal to preserve the victory.

Quintin Forbes led all scorers with three goals and two assists. Nick Irby, Zach Cotoni, and Ryan Dodge each had two goals. Austin Hourani had a goal and assist. P.J. Kendall made 14 saves. Irby and Ryan Heinser combined to win 15 of 19 faceoffs.

“Ashland was a skilled and well coached team. It was a tough game for both teams and just a good tournament game,” Crusaders head coach Rick Arena said.

Jun 012014

Alyssa Ash winds up for a pitch in the second inning of Saturday' s game at ShrewsburyArt Campbell | The Groton Line

Alyssa Ash winds up for a pitch in the second inning of Saturday’s game at Shrewsbury

SHREWSBURY — For the first three innings, Saturday’s MIAA Division 1 Central softball opening round game between the tenth-seed Groton-Dunstable Crusaders and the seventh-seed Shrewsbury Colonials was very competitive.

Then a four-run fourth inning, a six-run fifth inning, and a stellar performance by Shrewsbury pitcher Elise Lacasse spelled the end for the Crusaders’ season in an 11-0 defeat at Shrewsbury High School.

Lacasse pitched a complete-game four-hitter and struck out ten, and at one point retired thirteen consecutive batters. Her only hiccups came in the first, when she allowed a hit and a walk with two outs; and in the sixth, when she allowed the first two batters to reach, before inducing a double play on a popped-up sacrifice bunt attempt.

“She kept us off balance today,” Crusaders head coach Derek Asadoorian said. “We couldn’t put anything together.”
The Colonials got their first run in the third when Molly Dickinson scored on an error off a sacrifice bunt by Meg O’Keefe. G-D pitcher Alyssa Ash would make it through the rest of the inning unscathed, but when the fourth and fifth innings came along, things went downhill for the Crusaders.

The Colonials scored four runs on five hits in the fourth and six runs on seven hits in the fifth, and could have scored more, but left the bases loaded each time. Shortstop Amber Melideo’s three-run double in the sixth was the deathblow, putting the Colonials up 9-0.

“We didn’t have it today,” Asadoorian said. “We didn’t have the bats, we didn’t have the pitching, we made mistakes in the field that gave them extra outs. We didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing today, and that’s a disappointment.”

Celia Antonelllis, Erin Olson, Ariana Cho, and Annika Liljegren each had one hit for the Crusaders (10-11). Liljegren chalked up a stolen base.

Asadoorian was proud of his team’s accomplishments this season, including winning their final five games of the regular season to qualify for the tournament.

“I think these girls had a great season,” he said. “We had a lot of adversity on this team from the very beginning, and to win five games to get here is something we can hang our hat on … I told them that they fulfilled their potential.”
Next season will be a challenge for the Crusaders, who graduated five seniors (Antonellis, Ash, Cho, Liljegren, and Olson) and will have no seniors on next year’s team.

“They’re all quality softball players in their own right,” Asadoorian said of his seniors. “But it’s the person, the kid that I’m going to miss. The leadership that they brought, the level of commitment they lived up to … the seniors pulled the sophomores and freshmen together right away, and we had good team chemistry. I’m going to miss what they brought to the table.”

“We’re going to be very young next year,” Asadoorian added. “Hopefully the kids that were on the team this year will step up … they’re going to have to be leaders. I told the sophomores that they’re the ones who are going to be the captains next year. We have a lot of work to do, but they had a positive experience this year, and they learned from those five seniors.”

May 282014

G-D and Bellingham players scramble for a ground ball in Tuesday's MIAA Division 3 Central/East boys' lacrosse playoff game.Sam Feeley

G-D and Bellingham players scramble for a ground ball in Tuesday’s MIAA Division 3 Central/East boys’ lacrosse playoff game.

Before Tuesday’s MIAA Division 3 Central/East first round tournament game, Groton-Dunstable Crusaders boys’ lacrosse head coach Rick Arena told his team to always respect and never underestimate their opponents, even if they were the Bellingham Blackhawks, who finished the regular season 3-17.

The Crusaders, the sixth seed in the section, took that advice to heart and delivered a result that, to some, was to be expected — a 13-1 shellacking over the eleventh-seed Blackhawks at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School.

Quinton Forbes, Ryan Dodge, and Tristan Lynch each had a hat trick for G-D, while Forbes added four assists. His first assist led to a spectacular goal, as he lobbed a pass from behind the left side of the goal to Nick Irby, who jumped to catch it and scored his first of two goals before his feet touched the ground.

Forbes would assist on the next two goals, then score his first goal with 1:02 remaining in the first quarter to give the Crusaders a 4-0 lead. He would complete his hat trick with 6:59 remaining in the third quarter off a dodge that buckled his defender’s knees.

“We went into this game knowing that they’re a playoff team and this was do or die,” Arena said. “We had to come out pretty aggressively, and our guys had to be at a decent level to get up on them early.”

The other Crusader point-getters were Zach Cotoni (one goal, two assists) and Austin Hourani (two assists). Paul Leonardo (one goal), and Ryan Heinser (one assist).

The Crusaders dominated not only on the scoreboard, but on faceoffs (winning 12 to Bellingham’s five) and ground balls (25-15). The only statistic where they weren’t outplayed was saves — Crusaders goalie P.J. Kendall only had to make six stops, while Bellingham’s Eri Cote made seventeen, some of which denied point-blank opportunities for the Crusaders.
“We were relentless on ground balls,” Arena lauded. “And I was really happy with the way our attackmen rode their clears … those little things are what’s going to make the difference in the tournament.”

On the subject of faceoffs, Arena praised Heinser’s efforts: “[He] did a great job today. He lost one faceoff. That’s an area where he’s been improving, and he’s done a real nice job for us the past few games. It makes such a huge difference, because those are possessions. Any time we have the ball and they don’t, it’s a good thing.”

The Crusaders will face the third-seed Ashland Clockers at Ashland High School Saturday at 2 p.m. in a quarterfinal matchup. Arena is looking forward to the challenge.

“Ashland’s good,” he said. “We’re up against a big challenge. We’re going down there, it’s going to be the day after our graduation, and we’re going to have to come out and really be mentally prepared for those guys.”

May 172014
The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders baseball team's class of 2014 (l-r): Jeremy Gaissl, Andrew Sinnery, Matt Werner, Dean McCann, Alex Marken, Nick D'Angelo, and Nate Bellerose, with their parents.Sam Feeley

The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders baseball team’s class of 2014 (l-r): Jeremy Gaissl, Andrew Sinnery, Matt Werner, Dean McCann, Alex Marken, Nick D’Angelo, and Nate Bellerose, with their parents.

Wednesday was Senior Day for the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders baseball team, but it was the Nashoba Chieftains who were celebrating a decisive 12-1 victory at G-DRHS.

Starting pitcher Nick Campana went the distance for the Chieftains, allowing one run on four hits and three walks while striking out ten, including five of the first six batters. He had the Crusaders off balance all day, and even when he uncorked two wild pitches in the bottom of the fourth that allowed Crusader pitcher Andrew Sinney to score his team’s only run, he regained his composure and resumed his dominance.

“I’d say he was more than pretty good,” Crusaders head coach Matt LeBlanc said. “He was all around the strike zone, he worked ahead most of the time. He didn’t mix his pitches a ton, but he didn’t need to. We weren’t seeing the ball as good as we typically do.”

After Sinney breezed through the top of the first, getting the Chieftains in order on just eight pitches, the visitors began their assault. They scored two runs in the first on four singles and two stolen bases. Then three runs on four hits and a steal in the third. While a 5-0 deficit isn’t normally game over, with the way Campana was pitching, there wasn’t much hope for the Crusaders after that.

The Chieftains stole nine bases as a team and had every batter, including two pinch hitters in the top of the seventh, reach base at least once. Designated hitter Nick Bosari, batting from the eighth slot, had a terrific day, going 3-for-4 with three steals and two runs scored. Catcher Matt Sabourin (2-for-4, double, two RBIs, run scored), first baseman Kevin Connelly (2-for-4, RBI, two runs scored), and shortstop John Hannon (2-for-4, three steals, run scored) also had multiple hits. Campana even helped his own cause with an RBI single, a stolen base, and an RBI sacrifice fly.

“They just did a nice job of hitting the ball, because Andrew didn’t really lose control,” LeBlanc said. “He was around the strike zone the whole time … [Nashoba has] hit the ball well all year. Andrew needs to keep them off balance with the curveball.”

Sinney went 1-for-3 with a run scored, and pitched six innings, allowing eight runs on twelve hits and two walks with one strikeout. Alex Marken got the Crusaders’ first hit, a double, with two outs in the fourth. Patrick Keating and Billy Mitchell each got pinch-hit singles in the bottom of the seventh.

The Crusaders stand at 4-9 and must win all five of their remaining games to qualify for the MIAA Division 3 Central baseball tournament. All five games will be on the road in a span of eight days, beginning Thursday at Quabbin. LeBlanc knows his team has to play better than they did today in order to go on a streak.

“I think we need that balanced attack,” LeBlanc said. “We need our pitchers to throw strikes, we need to make plays, we need to hit. We’ll take it one game at a time, because every team we play is capable of beating us, but we’re capable of beating them.”

Wednesday was the final home game for seniors Sinnery, Marken, Jeremy Gaissl, Matt Werner, Dean McCann, and manager Nate Bellerose.