Fenway stole 12 bases en route to defeating Charlestown, 8-2, at Ryan Field Monday afternoon to qualify for the state tournament for the first time in eight years.
The Panthers (9-7, 7-3 Boston City League South) even stole home. Junior infielder Eddie Santos avoided the tag at the plate to tie the game at 2 in the fifth inning.
“It’s mad exciting,” said Santos, who logged three steals on the day. “It’s really exciting. You’re out there on third and you don’t know when coach will tell you to run. You don’t know when you’re going to get the call. If his windup is slow you just go. It’s not expected. Nobody thinks you are going to steal home plate.”
Anyone who has watched Fenway, however, should expect it from Fenway.
The Panthers, who average 10 stolen bases a game, have stolen home 10 times this season and have only been caught once.
“We’re aggressive on the base paths,” Santos said. “That’s how we win games. If we run bases well it’s always going to be a good game. It brings us momentum and it changes the game.”
Santos started the game on the mound but was replaced by senior pitcher Jeff Pena after he allowed Charlestown senior pitcher Frank Rosabal to knock in runs in the first and third innings. Rosabal recorded the loss for the Townies (5-8, 5-6) after striking out 10 batters, dropping to 3-4.
“That was the strongest he had pitched this year up until that last inning there,” said Charlestown coach Matt Sances. “There was a couple of errors there. He almost carried us.”
Fenway sophomore outfielder Julian Gonzalez knocked in Pena in the sixth inning to go up, 3-2, Fenway broke open the game in the final inning with five runs, including Pena’s 3-run triple.
“I was just winging it, I had to hustle it out,’’ Pena said. “I was a little winded — I’m not going to lie. I felt like we needed those runs.”
Pena entered the game with his team down, 2-1, with the bases loaded in the fourth and no outs. He struck out nine in four innings, including the first three batters he faced. Charlestown also left the bases loaded in the sixth.
Sances said he's proud of his team, which features seven underclassmen.
“This is a big jump, there’s a big — obviously — skill level jump as you get older in baseball,” Sances said. “It’s tough for freshman to play against seniors in there. The fact that they even hang in the games is a credit to how they play.”
Pena improved to 6-3 and has struck out more than 80 hitters. He said he's looking forward to being the underdog in the state tournament.
“That’s a big deal to us because we haven’t been in eight years,” Pena said. “I feel like we can do it though, I don’t feel the pressure [of being the ace]. I feel the pressure is on the other team to beat us.”
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