By Brian Willwerth
BRAINTREE, MA – It’s the one of those moments that any baseball player, at any age or any level, dreams of. You step up to the plate in the bottom of the 9th inning with a chance to win the game for your team.
On Tuesday afternoon, the kid known to his teammates as “Skiddy” got that opportunity for Franklin High School. And did he ever deliver.
Junior shortstop Brendan Skidmore belted a game-winning home run in the last of the 9th to give the Panthers a memorable, 6-5 victory over Xaverian in the Division 1 South championship game.
Skidmore connected on a 3-2 fastball. Less than a minute later, he was at the bottom of a celebratory Panthers’ dog pile, much to the delight of the Franklin contingent watching from the first-base side. Franklin came into the tournament as the #9 seed.
“We started out 2-3, and then we started to win some games,” said Franklin head coach Dave Niro. “We put things together, and we haven’t stopped yet.”
On a day that felt more like mid-October than mid-June, the game started out as a pitchers’ duel through the first three innings between Franklin’s Bobby Chaiton and Xaverian’s Nick Ahearn. Both pitchers put up zeros through the first three innings.
Xaverian got on the board first in the fourth. Senior Mike Muir walked, advanced to second on a groundout, and then came around to score on an RBI single to center by co-captain John Mullen. Franklin took its first lead in the bottom of the fifth when Jon Skaza singled to right with the bases loaded, giving the Panthers a 2-1 advantage.
Xaverian re-took the lead by scoring three times in the top of the sixth. And again it was Mullen, hitting a two-run double to left to score Chris Hoyt and the other co-captain, Gerard Florentino. Mullen came home on a sacrifice fly by Tim Duggan to make it 4-2. In the bottom of the inning, Franklin came right back. Dan Simon delivered an RBI single to left, and a fielder’s choice from Brandon Eccher brought in the tying run.
Each team scored a single run in the 7th. Florentino’s RBI single to left gave Xaverian the lead. But in the bottom of the inning, with the rain coming down, Franklin tied it at 5 when Tim Garvey walked with the bases loaded. The Panthers would leave the sacks packed.
The game remained tied 5-5 until the bottom of the ninth, setting the stage for Skidmore’s heroics.
“He got me in my first two at-bats on curveballs,” said Skidmore. “He gave me my fastball and I did what I could with it.” He said he knew it was gone the moment it left the bat. It was unbelievable. Best feeling I’ve ever had.”
“I don’t know if I could’ve lasted another inning,” said Niro. “I’m getting too old for this.”
Franklin will face Lincoln-Sudbury on Wednesday in the Division 1 State semifinals. That game will be played in Lowell.
“It’s great, this time of the year,” said Niro shortly after getting doused by Gatorade. “Hopefully we can get ‘em tomorrow.”