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Senators beaten in crazy back-and-forth affair, 9-8

MONSON — Sixth-inning fireworks were on display Monday afternoon when Monson High School and Mahar Regional School squared off on the baseball diamond.

After the ninth-seeded Senators (12-10) scored seven times in the top of the inning to take a 8-4 lead, the top-seeded Mustangs (16-4) plated five runs in the bottom of the frame and went on to survive a scare with a 9-8 victory in the WMass Division III quarterfinals.

Mahar struggled to find its offense flow over the first five innings against Monson starting pitcher Liam Christian, scraping together one run in the top of the first inning, courtesy of an error, before being limited to two hits over the next four innings. A four-run second inning by the Mustangs put them up 4-1 entering the sixth.

Jake Paul led off the Senators’ sixth-inning rally with a single to center, and Drew Patria got the Mahar bench even more animated by roping a double to left. After Coty Iozzo walked to fill the bases, Buddy Boatwright singled to left for the first run of the inning. Matt Richard followed with a walk to force in a run and end the afternoon for Christian, who went 5 1-3 innings with three strikeouts and five walks.

Ethan Nye greeted Monson reliever Jon Fabrycki with a four-pitch walk to force in the tying run, and Zach Adams followed with a single to right after falling behind 0-2 in the count. On that play, Boatwright got caught in a pickle between third and home but scored when Monson shortstop Pat Murphy dropped the ball in a rundown. After a strikeout by Logan Barrett, Paul came to the plate for the second time in the inning and blasted a double to score two more runs and put Mahar ahead 8-4.

“Christian kept us off-balance most of the game,” Mahar coach Art Billings said. “We really couldn’t hit, couldn’t get a good piece of the ball on the bat. But we get a walk or two and a couple of hits and all of a sudden we scored those seven runs. It was good that the kids didn’t quit.”

But before the Mahar cheers were barely ended, Monson made a comeback of its own. Fabrycki got things started with a leadoff single, but Mahar starter Patria (5 2-3 innings, five strikeouts, four walks) got two quick outs. That’s when the dam broke.

Pat Murphy, Ben Murphy and Jake Dold hit consecutive singles, with Ben Murphy and Dold driving in one run apiece to cut the deficit to 8-6. Then Patria walked No. 9 hitter Nate Lobik to load the bases. That ended his afternoon as Mahar coach Art Billings brought in reliever Adams, but Christian, Monson’s leadoff hitter with the team’s top average, unloaded the second pitch from the reliever to deep left center, clearing the bases and putting Monson ahead to stay.

“You’ve got to give it to them in that sixth inning, they put a couple of hits together and we couldn’t get that third out,” Billings said. “Their best hitter cleared the bases and they are not No. 1 for nothing.

Mahar got one more chance to tie it in the top of the seventh, when Iozzo lead off with a walk and was bunted to second. But the Mahar baserunner tried to take third with two outs on a wild pitch and was gunned out to end the game and the Senators’ season.

Paul finished with three hits to lead Mahar and received praise from his coach.

“He’s the last guy hitting after practice,” Billings said. “He goes and hits more after everyone leaves. The hard work that he’s put in has shown on the field, and it’s a good way to show the younger kids that, with some hard work, you can get better

After just two wins last season, the Senators made huge strides, according to Billings, and with many of the players returning next year, the future is bright.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” Billings gushed. “They’re all holding their heads down right now, and I know it’s tough to lose. But for what they’ve accomplished and learned over each and every game — the mistakes they tried to correct, the way they’ve worked hard in practice to try and get better — we wouldn’t be here if that didn’t happen.”

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