Sweep ends successful season for Schooners
Groton — Player after player approached Mystic manager Phil Orbe on Tuesday night to say goodbye in the aftermath of an ugly season-ending loss.
But the mood was upbeat instead of somber.
The Mystic Schooners still had reason to celebrate even after being swept in the New England Collegiate Baseball League South Division best-of-three semifinal series. Plymouth cruised to a 12-1 game two victory at Fitch High School.
They considered the season a success, and not only because they qualified for the playoffs for the second straight year and won 23 regular season games.
"The objective of the team is not necessarily to win 35 games and put a banner up," Orbe said. "It's to put a good product on the field and to develop players. I can honestly say that every guy that played for us this summer got better in some respect.
"A lot of that has to do with how comfortable they were. And that has all to do with the community, ownership, host families and the program that we have in place. ... I'd be remiss not to say that we didn't want to win this series, or the series after that and the series after that.
"We recruited players who were good people and also good players. That's what we're going to continue to do."
The better team won the series.
For the second straight game, Plymouth pitchers turned in a dominating performance. The Pilgrims improved to 4-0 against the Schooners when Nicholas Berger (Northeastern) starts. Berger allowed just five hits and struck out 10 in 6 1/3 innings.
Mystic squandered some early chances, including putting the first two runners on in the first inning. But Berger struck out Stephen Laurino, the league's batting champ, and retired league home run king Brad Zunica on a groundout and struck out Dan Hoy to end the threat.
The Schooners could muster just a second-inning run, as Jared Hendren's double drove in former Fitch standout Aaron Hill (UConn).
"We have good pitching," said Mystic pitching coach Dennis Long. "They have great pitching. They don't make a lot of mistakes. We kind of fell into their trap."
Plymouth delivered in the clutch, scoring its first four runs — two in the second and two in the third - with two outs. Mystic starter Nolan Long (Wagner), a former Waterford star, lasted just five innings, giving up five hits and four runs while striking out two and walking two.
"It's definitely (tough)," Nolan Long said of the loss, "especially knowing that we could have done more. ... We knew it was do-or-die for us and we had to make things happen. It hurts that we couldn't get it done."
The Pilgrims broke it open with eight runs in the eighth inning. The Schooners made five errors overall. Nick Ruppert continued his hot postseason hitting, chipping in two singles for Mystic.
The postgame talk focused on the season, not the loss.
"It was a good season overall," Dennis Long said. "We really enjoyed these players. They're just great kids. We just hope they all learned a little bit about baseball and Mystic."
Orbe, who had to sit out Tuesday's game after being ejected in Monday's 4-2 loss, returned to the field after the final out. He'll work with Dennis Long to put together the roster for the 2015 Mystic team.
Several players asked Orbe about returning. Count Nolan Long as one.
"It's a great group of guys," Nolan Long said. "I love hanging out with them. We all got along from the start. It was great."
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