Battling it out under the lights at Weston High Tuesday night, Sudbury Post 191 clinched its second straight berth in the American Legion Elite Eight tournament, as it defeated Medford Post 45, 8-5.
Medfords secret to success all summer long has been its ability to grind out comeback wins, but an early 6-0 deficit was just too much to overcome for manager Ryan Kozuls squad, who said his team played probably our worst four innings of the season.
Medford ace John Lavoie took the mound while battling a case of the flu, and was clearly off his game out of the gate.
Sudburys Robbie Oliphant led off the bottom of the first with a double, and scored when Medfords Sean Doncaster threw wildly to first when he tried to nab the next batter, Sam Miller, who later scored on an RBI single.
Lavoie made it through the second, but ran into a wild jam in the third.
After loading the bases with no outs, Lavoie attempted to pick the runner off first, but threw wildly. Sudbury (13-1) plated the runners from second and third on the mishap, and by the end of the inning held a commanding 6-0 lead.
But, per usual, Post 45 (9-3) battled back, and Kozul was not surprised with the effort.
We never give in, he said. We were down 6-0 and I think they thought the game was over, but we jumped right back.
After Joey Westerman (Maynard High) held Medford scoreless through four innings of admirable pitching, he began to unwind in the fifth, allowing hits to the first four batters of the inning.
Leadoff hitter Mark Fusco started the rally with a double, and was singled in by the next batter Kyle Boudrias.
Then Globe All-Scholastic catcher Jake Porrazzo doubled off the base of the left-centerfield wall, knocking in Boudrias, before scoring the third run later in the inning, cutting the deficit in half.
Medford scored two more in the sixth and down 7-5 had the go-ahead run at the plate, but cleanup hitter Tim Conroy struck out looking at the hands of Sudburys Reid Jordan to end the inning.
Jordan took the mound again with an 8-5 lead in the top of the seventh and held Post 45 scoreless, striking out Mike Pizzi to end the game, sending Sudbury to the Elite Eight.
The regional-bound tourney will feature eight of the top teams in the state, and Post 191 manager Len Noce thinks its where they belong.
I feel like these guys are playing at the top of their game, he said. I feel like were ready for the challenge. These guys have earned it.
Sudburys first round matchup will District 8 leader Methuen Post. First pitch is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Thursday at Holy Cross in Worcester.
Taylor C. Snow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @taylorcsnow