MADISON — As baseball lore goes, beating a team three times in a season is not easy, let alone four times, but that is exactly what Hand did on Thursday afternoon.
Behind a four-run sixth inning Hand defeated Guilford, 8-5, for the fourth time this season, this time in the Class L second round.
“I don’t want to offend any of our other opponents, they are the best team we have played,” Hand coach Travis LaPointe said about Guilford. “I don’t think they necessarily have the best overall talent, they are the best fighters we have played. We have so much respect for them, their coaching staff is incredible, I love those guys. They do a tremendous job with their team. They fight as well or better than any team we have played, we never think they are going to stop.”
No. 4 Hand moves on to play No. 12 Notre Dame-West Haven on Saturday in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. It’s the first time Hand has advanced past the second round since 2015.
Like they have all year the Tigers clawed back into the game and won in comeback fashion.
Anthony DePino’s, two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the sixth gave the Tigers a 6-5 lead, they would add two more in the frame to put away the game for good.
“I’ve been sitting curveball, off-speed,” the sophomore said. “It’s all I get here, Guilford has done that to me all the time. I saw it right down the middle, take it out.”
Before DePino’s hit, the Tigers had loaded the bases against Guilford starter Zach Samson.
Guilford then brought in Kevin Ciardello, more a soft thrower than Samson, to face Julian Banerji with one out and Ciardello got him to swing ahead of the pitch and pop out.
“The fact that DePino was able to keep his hands back and do what he did with that baseball,” LaPointe said. “He’s just a special kid. I’m really proud of him.”
Guilford jumped out early with a run in the first against Hand starter Jake Crawford and after Hand took a 3-1 lead in the third, Guilford came back with four runs in the fourth.
John Petonito, Josh Wettemann each had RBI singles and Mike Stebbins had a sacrifice fly to highlight the inning.
With the bases loaded and two-outs LaPointe turned to Kevin Tracy out of the bullpen, who came in and got the final out.
“I came in the same situation against Amity and I allowed them get three runs that inning and we went down,” Tracy said. “So I wanted to come in this inning and get that final out and bring it back into the dugout.”
Tracy would keep Guilford off the board the rest of the game, pitching 3 1/3 innings of shutout ball.
“I think we have crossed that line of learning how to win and we’re in a pretty special now because we expect to win,” LaPointe said. “Once you start to learn to win, you expect to win and it just becomes contagious, you just feel like anyone can come through in any spot.”