Vineyard boys edge Watertown 5-4 in baseball thriller

Aiden Aliberti on the mound against Watertown — Photo by Alex Palmer

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys varsity baseball team took a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning against Watertown on Saturday, then held on for dear life as the Red Raiders scored three times and had two runners in scoring position when the game ended. Junior Tucker McNeeley retired the only batter he faced on a fly ball to left, stranding the two runners and allowing the Vineyarders to escape with a narrow 5-4 victory.

The stars did not seem aligned for the Vineyarders in this affair, as their arrival was delayed and the start of the game was pushed back by 30 minutes.

The team showed no ill effects, however, as starter Aiden Aliberti shut down the Watertown bats for five innings and the offense scratched out five small-ball runs. Typical of the Vineyarders’ offense was sophomore leadoff hitter Nainoa Cooperrider, who had two singles and a stolen base, and who scored twice, compliments of a Tim Roberts sac fly and a Mike Mussell base hit.

Aiden used excellent control and changing speeds to dominate the Raiders. The hosts finally reached him in the sixth inning, with two hits, a couple of “loud” outs and a run scored. The inning ended with Watertown’s Jared Grillo, who had two hits on the day, being thrown out at third on a close and disputed play.

That was nothing compared with the bottom of the seventh, when Watertown turned the one-sided contest into a wild seat-squirmer. With two runs in and two men on, senior Tim Roberts replaced Aiden, and got the second out. Then Watertown’s Brendan Berkeley smashed a drive to deep left that appeared to tie the game as both Raider runners scored and Berkeley cruised into third. But the ball had bounced over a low fence in left field and, for the second inning in a row, the umpires convened to sort things out. The ball was ruled a ground-rule double, sending one runner back to third and Berkeley to second.

Enter Tucker. With the tying and winning runs in scoring position and momentum clearly shifted to the home team, he nailed down the win and guaranteed a happy ride home.

“I can’t say enough about Tucker,” said coach Gary Simmons. “He offered to pitch in that last inning, knowing he was scheduled to start our next game. Tucker is a true team-first guy.”

The Vineyarders, now 4-2 on the season, face Bishop Feehan today in a conference road game.