It’s not very often that you see a doubleheader with two strong — very strong — pitching performances, back to back.
But the Pepperell baseball team further proved their superiority on the mound by sweeping Union County, 2-1 and 8-0, in the third round of the Class AA state tournament to advance to the Elite Eight.
The Dragons will host Jeff Davis, the No. 2-seeded team from Region 2-AA, on Tuesday at 1 p.m.
“It means a ton (to be in the Elite Eight),” said Pepperell coach Wright Edge. “I told the guys that we’re in uncharted waters. It’s been a while since Pepperell baseball has been in the Elite Eight, so it’s a good thing. We’re excited.”
With the stout pitching of Tyler Smith, Pepperell clinched a close defensive battle in Game 1 and then relied on the pitching of Nick Williams — and an explosive hitting effort — to shut out Union in the lopsided Game 2 victory.
“That’s kind of where we’ve been all year,” said Edge about his team’s reliable pitching. “That’s what I expect from the guys, and that’s just where we are. (Our pitchers) just do a good job.”
Smith pitched the entire first game, striking out 12 and walking five, while giving up just three hits and one run.
Williams pitched six innings in Game 2. He struck out 13, walked five and gave up just two hits in his last inning.
Caleb Jackson had the save in Game 2 as he pitched the final inning, striking out two and walking one.
From the mound, the Pepperell pitching staff totaled 27 strikeouts in the two games.
Game 1 saw the Dragons less productive from the plate, but Pepperell used the sixth inning to record the two runs needed to win.
In the face of a 1-0 Union advantage, Williams hit a triple to bring in younger brother Zack Williams, who got on base with a walk.
Jackson hit an RBI single right after to give Pepperell the 2-1 lead.
Smith and the Pepperell defense held off Union in the seventh inning to roll to the win.
“(Timely hitting) is exactly what won the ball game,” said Edge. “We didn’t start out hitting the ball too well, but when we needed it, they came through for us, and our pitching kept us in there.”
Game 2 wasn’t quite so clutch from the plate.
Pepperell recorded its first run of the game with an RBI single from Jackson and surged in the fourth with a two-run sacrifice fly from Smith.
The Dragons collected two more runs in the sixth and three in the seventh to coast to the victory.
“They finally came around (in the second game),” said Edge. “They hit well, they did some good things, and they hit the ball hard.”
Bradley Adams went a perfect 4-for-4 from the plate for Pepperell.
Seth Addison went 2-for-4 with a two-run double and collected three RBIs on the game.
Smith was 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Jackson and Nick Williams were each 2-for-4 with Jackson collecting two RBIs.
Bryce Adams went 1-for-4 with an RBI.
The Dragons, now two series wins from the state finals, will be the host team from this point on, given they keep winning.
“That’s huge,” said Edge. “We want to end it with a state championship here, but it’s good to know that the seniors will be able to play every game from now on here at our place.”
The best-of-three series with Jeff Davis begins with a doubleheader on Tuesday, followed by a game on Wednesday if necessary.