Brady Poreda smacks game-winning hit as No. 14 Frontier takes down No. 3 Oxford in extra innings to advance to Div. 5 quarterfinals (PHOTOS)

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 06-08-2023 9:09 AM

OXFORD – The Frontier baseball team won’t pinch hit for Brady Poreda again.

The freshman No. 9 hole hitter plunged the dagger into No. 3 Oxford to send the No. 14 Redhawks to the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinals on the road Wednesday.

After Frontier coach Chris Williams sent a more experienced hitter to lead off the top of the sixth inning, Poreda came up again in the game’s most important spot with one out in the eighth of a tie ballgame.

Eathon Bryant drew a walk to lead off extra innings, as Oxford ace Connor Fantasia’s magic started to fade. Miles Ferreira struck out looking behind him and was ejected for arguing the call. Poreda watched breaking balls drop outside the zone, showing patience beyond his years waiting for the right fastball.

“All postseason Coach has been talking about that dagger shot in a close game,” Poreda said. “I knew I had to come up big.”

Bryant stole second after nearly being picked off first to put himself in scoring position. Off Poreda’s bat, he knew it was headed for the gap. 

“I knew I had to get on my horse and get there,” Bryant said.

The throw arrived at home plate at the same time he did, but Bryant’s slide powered through the tag and popped the ball out of the catcher’s glove to give Frontier a 3-2 lead. He tore his pants on the left leg near the knee. They’ve been sewed before and will need it again.

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“I thought he had me, I saw the ball pop out and didn’t know what to say,” Bryant said. “My veins were like all tightened up, it was a good moment.”

The Redhawks (16-6) needed three more good moments to seal the victory with Oxford’s last at bat. Frontier ace Liam Skribiski-Banack threw all eight innings and prevented a mutiny by the Pirates.

Oxford leadoff hitter Jeff Guzman flew out to center to begin the eighth, then Lucas Lambert reached on an error. Skribiski-Banack induced a ground ball for a fielder’s choice then struck out the last batter to send Frontier to the next round. The Redhawks will face No. 6 Ayer-Shirley on the road Sunday at 3:30 p.m. for a spot in the Final Four.

“We have so much trust in Liam. That was a big part of not throwing him Sunday (in the opening round win over Upper Cape Cod Regional Voc Tech),” Williams said. “We knew that in order to come down here and beat this team, we had to have our No. 1 guy. He came up with some big outs when we needed him.”

Frontier gave Skribiski-Banack breathing room early. Nico Fasulo induced an error with a tricky bouncing ball to the left side of the infield on the game’s opening at bat to reach first. He stole second then came home on a Tyler Cusson single with two outs up the left side despite needing to slow down so the ball wouldn’t hit him as it raced between second and third.

The Redhawks scored their second run with two outs in the second. Ferreira singled, then Poreda singled behind him to put runners on first and second. Fasulo brought in Ferreira, which put runners on second and third.

Frontier also loaded the bases in the third but couldn’t add to its lead. That chased the starter Lambert, as Oxford put in Fantasia to stem the tide.

“I had to have faith in my offense. I wasn’t able to produce, but I have faith in my teammates both offensively and defensively,” Skribiski-Banack said.

Oxford (15-8) became more dangerous with its bats and on the basepaths as the game progressed. Lambert led off the third with a single that he tried to stretch into a double. Frontier left fielder Wyatt Edes ignored the cut off throw and cut him down at second base.

The Pirates strung together three straight infield balls that Frontier struggled to field to draw a run back in the fourth. First baseman Zak Parmenter tied the game 2-2 in the fifth. Guzman then sent a ball to deep left field that would likely have scored two more if it dropped, but Edes dove to try and catch it and knocked the ball out of play. That put runners at second and third, and Skribiski-Banack induced a ground out to end the inning.

Frontier went down 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth. The cemetery behind the Redhawks dugout beckoned. They weren’t dead yet.

After Oxford’s Nolan Remington led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk and reached second on a sacrifice bunt, Skribiski-Banack struck out the next two batters to reach the seventh inning. He only punched out five Pirates, but four of them came in the final three innings.

Frontier sat down Oxford 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh to reach extra innings.

“In Western Mass. we were always the underdogs. The state thought we were a joke, a laughingstock of baseball but here we are yet again proving we can compete with the best,” Bryant said. “We’re a legit baseball team. We’re here to prove it this year.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>