Submitted by Roger Whittlesey
For a few teams, the playoffs are a familiar friend.
For others they are as elusive as Big Foot.
And for yet another small group clustered at the center of the standings, the playoffs are within scratching and clawing distance.
Scratching: It took eleven innings for Healy Oil (8-11) to defeat eighth place Mario’s Restaurant (6-14) this week.
Clawing: Third place Drew Farms (9-10) needed nine innings to defeat last place Gutcheck (4-14), a team that, though not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, will likely need to win 5 of its final 6 for a legitimate chance at the post-season.
Healy Oil is now in fifth place and 1.5 games ahead of seventh place Pro Sports Therapy (7-13), which has made the playoffs for more than 15 years in a row, but with only four games left, is in danger of ending its streak.
Willis Tent (7-11) currently holds the sixth and final playoff spot, but may need to win half of its remaining six games to earn a playoff berth. Nashoba Valley Mustangs (18-1), Floral Arts (16-3) and Shortcut Landscaping (11-9) are the top three teams. Floral and Mustangs have already earned a first-round playoff bye.
Drew Farms 15, Gutcheck 13
On Tuesday night, Gutcheck owned the lead until the seventh inning, when Drew Farms posted four runs to go up 12-11. Gutcheck pushed across a run in the seventh and then forced the game into extra innings. Neither team scored until Drew Farms plated three runs in the top of the ninth. Gutcheck left fielder Thanh Nguyen hit a solo shot, his second homer of the game, to lead off the bottom of the ninth and make the score 15-13, but that would be all for Gutcheck, despite getting a couple more runners on base. Jim Curley hit two home runs for Gutcheck, and Gary Lavelle and Bob Wilson each had a solo shots. Todd Shepherd and Steve Abbott hit big home runs when Drew Farms needed a lift. Jason Goldthwaite played a great game at shortstop and Billy Faherty made an amazing catch behind the plate in the bottom of the ninth to help secure the win.
Floral Arts 17, Pro Sports Therapy 2
Jim Peloquin made his third start of the season on the mound and pitched a gem, allowing no hits until the fourth inning when PST’s John Bodi hit a liner down the third base line. Peloquin made several stellar defensive plays in the game, including a diving grab on a ball earmarked for center field. Peloquin didn’t leave the offense to chance, either. He went 4-for-4, hit three home runs, knocked in seven and scored four times. Outfielder Mike Alonardo (3-for-4, 2 HRs, 4 RBI) threw out a runner trying to tag from second base on a fly ball. Rob Beaudette was 4-for-4 with a home run.
Nashoba Valley Veterinarian Mustangs 16, Shortcut Landscaping 12
On Wednesday night, Jack McGrath had a huge night for the first place Mustangs, going 3-for-3 and swatting a grand slam. The Mustangs also got great offense from Donnie Cusano (2 HRs), Mike Kennedy (3-for-3 with a home run) and Paul Selfrige and Jack Erickson, who both homered once. Erickson was instrumental in cutting down a late-inning Shortcut threat by throwing out a runner at first base from the short left field position to take away what would have otherwise been a base hit.
Healy Oil 24, Mario’s Restaurant 21
In one of the most exciting games of the season, Healy Oil needed sparkling defense, great physical stamina, and raw power to push past Mario’s, 24-21, in eleven innings. Brian Herrmann, Brian Egan, and Tony Pantoja hit homers for Healy. Defense kept the game close, especially plays by right fielder Egan, who threw out a runner at third late in the game, and Al Boisvert’s catch of a pop foul that brought him to the foul line and required great agility to keep his toes in fair territory while making the grab.