By Robert Marra
In a summer where live sporting events are a rarity and the Red Sox have provided all the reason in the world to ignore baseball, the East Boston Expos and the Charlestown Townies wrestled through a five-game Yawkey Baseball League Championship series that would make Abner Doubleday proud that he invented baseball. When it was over, the Expos enjoyed the well-earned champagne drenching that signified victory.
In the series-deciding Game 5 at Lowell’s Alumni Field last Friday, the Expos nudged across a single run in the third inning then clung to the one-hit, shutout pitching of Series MVP Scott Hall to claim the Yawkey League championship trophy, as the Townies endured a disappointing championship finals loss for the second year in a row.
It was no surprise that the Expos and Townies landed in the finals. During the league’s Covid-19-shortened season, the Expos blitzed through the 14-game schedule undefeated, while the Townies finished 10-3-1 for second place. Both teams drew first-round byes and then swept their semi-final series against the Brighton Black Sox (Expos) and Stoneham Sabres.
The championship series began as if the Expos dominance was destined to continue. With Hall on the mound at Alumni Field in Lowell on Monday August 17, the Expos took Game 1, 4-2, staving off a last-inning Townies’ rally to escape with the win.
The following night the series moved to East Boston Stadium, and pitcher Cam Monagle did the complete-game honors as the Expos dominated in a 6-0 win. The Expos were powered by back-to-back triples by Derek Adamson and Brett Samboy batted during a five-run first-inning Expos outburst that set the stage for the win. Adamson finished the night with three runs batted in. Monagle struck out nine and walked none on his way to the win.
The Expos had champagne on ice for Game 3 at Pine Banks Field in Melrose, but pitcher Paul Frisoli and his Townie teammates were intent on spoiling the party. The Townies broke out for four runs in the second inning, added three more in the fifth, and piled on four more in the sixth en route to an 11-0 win. The game featured an unusual twist when the automatic sprinkler system activated at 10 p.m. forcing everyone to pack up and trudge over to the nearby turf field where relief pitcher Sean Mahan quickly sent the Expos to their first loss of the year. Kyle Halloran had the Townies’ hottest bat, banging out three hits in four at bats while knocking in a pair of runs. Charles Auditore was 2-for-3 on a three rbi night.
The teams returned the Pine Banks for Game 4, this time on the turf field where they played a classic. The Townies jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning. After Expos starter Kevin Michael struck out Jack Vaccari, Halloran singled then stole second. Mike Martignetti singled , then Colin Henneberger doubled to score Halloran, with Martinetti stopping at third. With Charles Auditore at bat, Martignetti hustled home on a pass ball to put the Townies up two. Auditore grounded out, scoring Henneberger, and the Townies had a 3-0 lead.
The Expos answered with a run in the third. With one out, Ryan Petrone singled and moved to second on a pass ball. Philip Gaines struck out but a Matt Costanza single scored Petrone. The Townies came back with two more in the bottom of the third. Consecutive singles by Ben Adams, Devin Santilli and Brandon Grover loaded the bases for Jack Vaccari to knock in Adams on a fielders’ choice, then Halloran knocked home Santilli to put the Townies up 5-1.
The Expos scratched back with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth. Bret Samboy led off with a double off Evan Walsh and scored when Matt Ferro doubled. Jose Paulino singled to put runners on the corners, then Ismael Tatis walked to load the bases. Ferro scored on a a wild pitch, then Mike Oliveira was hit by a pitch to load the bases again. But Walsh bore down and struck out Ryan Petrone and Philip Gains before getting Matt Costanza to fly out to left to end the threat and the Townies held on to a 5-3 lead.
The Expos tied the game in the top of the seventh (last) inning. With one Matt Costanza singled and Derek Adamson walked. Samboy struck out, but Ferro kept things alive with a single that scored Costanza to make it 5-4. Paulino then hit a mile-high pop that fell fair near first base and Adamson raced home with the tying run. But East Boston could not push across the go-ahead run, and the Townies won in with a walk-off single
With the score tied and one out, Ben Adams and Brandon Grover singled and Devin Santilli walked to load the bases. Jack Vaccari then played the hero’s role with a walk-off single that scored Adams and it was back to Lowell Friday night for game 5.
The deciding game was a pitcher’s duel between Hall and Walsh. Both pitchers were stingy. The Expos scratched just five hits but manufactured the only run they’d need in the bottom of the third. Ryan Petrone singled and then stole second. Matt Costanza singled, with Petrone stopping at third. Petrone came home when Derek Adamson hit into a double play, but with Hall untouchable on the mound the rest of the night, the single run was all the Expos needed to finally break out the champagne and celebrate the 2020 Yawkey Baseball League title.