Marblehead wins tourney opener, will host Danvers next

·3 min read

Jun. 22—MARBLEHEAD — It was lefty Jacob Sherf's first career playoff start and visiting Belmont tried to put some pressure on him by loading the bases with two outs in the second inning.

All Marblehead High's ace pitcher had to do was rely on his catcher, Charlie Titus, who ended the inning by picking off a runner at first. The Marauders never truly threatened again with the Northeastern Conference South champs prevailing, 10-2, in Division 2 North action Monday at Seaside Park.

"Charlie called a pitch out and I gave him a fastball away. He's got an absolute hose and that was a huge, huge play," said Sherf, who earned his fifth win of the year with five strong innings. He struck out three to reach 50 K's for the season, fewer than his season average but Marblehead played flawless defense behind him.

"It's always good to get that first playoff win. I didn't feel like I had my best stuff but I was able to work down and get grounders and pop ups for my defense to handle."

The Magicians (13-4) will now host Danvers (11-8) in the North quarterfinals on Wednesday. It was a complete effort offensively for Marblehead, which scored in five of its six offensive innings and had 10 hits from six different batters.

None of them hit the ball harder than shortstop Liam McIlroy, who crushed a pair doubles deep to Seaside's grassy outfield hills.

"Liam's been working hard on his mechanics in the cage," Magician coach Mike Giardi said. "Everyone talks about launch angle ... he's such a strong kid, he doesn't need a steep angle, he just needs to drive through the ball. He's focused on his swing path and has been swinging the bat really, really well."

Sami Loughlin went 3-for-4 for Marblehead and each of the Titus boys contributed offensively. The eldest, senior captain Charlie, opened the scoring with a two-run single in the bottom of the first. Twin brothers Matt and Andy, both sophomores, reached five times between them with Matt scoring on Andy's 2-run double in the sixth.

Belmont (4-11) made it a 3-2 game in the third but the Magicians responded with Andy Burke (two runs, two steals) scoring on an error and a Tommy Groom RBI single. The hosts got another on a Shane Keogh sac fly in the fourth and tacked on two each in the fifth and sixth to put the game well out of reach.

"There was a lot of bounce back in this game, a lot of times we answered," said Giardi. "The kids might've been a little nervous with this being the first playoff game. Getting the first one gives you a real comfort level."

Bjorn Pluss and James Doody both threw perfect innings out of the Marblehead bullpen in their first career appearances. Sherf's confidence grew as the lead swelled from 3-0 to 6-2 and 8-2 before his day was finished.

"It's huge when we get the bats going. Liam especially is mashing it right now," Sherf said. "Playing with the lead takes a lot of pressure off. I felt like all I had to do was throw strikes."

Looking to advance to the North semi's, the Magicians host a familiar foe in Danvers, a 1-0 winner over No. 4 seed Wakefield. The Falcons and Magicians split their two games this spring, with Danvers winning 1-0 at their place and Marblehead prevailing 12-8 at Seaside.

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