Mahar's Magic Helps Harwich Knock Off Defending State Champion
by Eric Adler
COHASSET – There's really only one way to
explain how the Harwich baseball team knocked off two-time defending
state champion Cohasset, and it begins and ends with Mike Mahar.
The junior left-hander and number nine
hitter worked his magic on the mound and in the batter's box, helping
the Rough Riders pull off a colossal upset and keep their season afloat.
Getting A Lift.
Dan Cook picks up pitcher Mike Mahar during the post-game
celebration after Harwich upset top-seeded Cohasset Wednesday.
ERIC ADLER PHOTO
Mahar allowed only one run on four hits
and drove in both of Harwich's runs, lifting the Rough Riders to a
tense, 2-1 victory over the host Skippers in the MIAA Division Four
South quarterfinals Wednesday afternoon.
Ninth-seeded Harwich (15-7) will take on
Bristol-Plymouth at Rockland Stadium on Friday at 4 p.m.. Top-seeded
Cohasset, which had won 10 straight games – and 11 straight in the
post-season dating back to 2010 – ends the year 19-3.
"It's out of this world, I can't really
describe how it feels right now," said Mahar, who struck out 12 and
issued three walks. "I think Cohasset may have been overconfident
playing against us, the No. 9 seed, but this proves that anything can
happen. It's amazing."
The Skippers had won the previous six
games against the Rough Riders, including a 6-1 victory over Harwich in
the south sectional finals two years ago.
This season, Cohasset defeated Harwich 5-2
and 6-0 en route to their second straight South Shore League title, but
those losses and all the ones before those didn't faze the resilient
Rough Riders, who came into the contest a confident bunch.
"We knew the whole year we could beat this
team," said Mahar. "We felt that we were the better team every time we
played them, but for one reason or another, we came up short. But this
time, we didn't make any mental errors and we only made a couple of
physical errors. We put the ball in play and made the plays in the
Dan Cook, Jake Malone and Stephen Brown
all had two hits for Harwich, but none were bigger than the two by Mahar,
who singled in a run in the fourth and sixth innings with two strikes
and two outs against him.
"I knew I had to put the ball in play, so
I stayed focused and found the hole both times," said Mahar.
Just as impressive was Mahar's brilliance
on the bump as he out-dueled Cohasset's top two pitchers, starter Jamie
Timothy, who threw the first four frames before being relieved by Jamie
Farber. The Skippers' righties allowed eight hits and struck out five,
"My curveball and fastball were working
all day and I have a great catcher [Tommy Birch] calling the pitches,"
said Mahar. "I didn't shake him off once. He knew what to do every time
and everything was just working perfectly."
Not to take anything away from Mahar, but
one of the best pitches was the curveball thrown by Harwich coach Steve
Wilson, who opted to go with his southpaw No. 2 starter, whom the
Skipper hadn't seen before (they faced Malone in both regular season
"I tried to set this up so this would give
us the best chance to win," said Wilson. "Michael kept us in the game by
getting ahead of the batters and often getting the first out, which was
critical against this team. In my opinion, this was the best game of his
career, because of his command and his composure. He buckled down and
threw strikes when Cohasset had men on base."
Both teams left runs on the board early
on. Brown doubled in the second, but was later thrown out at home. Conor
Goetz (2-for-3) singled to start the bottom of the frame and Shane
Haggerty reached on an error, but Mahar ended the threat by striking out
the final two batters.
Harwich broke through in the fourth when
Malone beat out a slow-roller to the shortstop and moved up on Cook's
single to shallow centerfield. Two batters later, Mahar hit a frozen
rope to right to give Harwich a 1-0 lead.
Mahar added more two-out magic in the
sixth when he connected again to right to bring home Malone, who singled
to start off the inning and moved into scoring position when Brown drew
a walk off a payoff pitch.
Cohasset cut the lead in half in the
bottom of the sixth.
Goetz hit a one-out single to right, moved
over when Mahar was called for a balk, and pulled into third on Terence
Doonan's swinging bunt single halfway down the third base line. Haggerty
followed with an RBI single to center.
Cohasset got the go-ahead run in scoring
position when Harwich allowed Haggerty to take second, but Mahar got out
of the pressure-packed situation by striking out pinch-hitter Mickey
Barry and No. 9 hitter Christian Davis with a pair of nasty pitches at
"I knew I had to focus on the next two
batters and put the ball where they couldn't hit it, so I put it down
and away both times, and they missed it both times," said Mahar. "It was
definitely the most nerve-wracking part of the game, but I took a deep
breath, buckled down and knew that this was when I had to play my best."
Mahar had another tall task the following
frame, facing the Skippers' top-of-the-order hitters, but once again he
rose to the challenge.
Mahar needed just three pitches to strike
out John Collins. He retrieved Farber's ensuing grounder and flipped to
first to record the penultimate out, then got Timothy swinging to seal
"We're very confident now having beat the
number one seed," said Mahar. "There's not another team in the
tournament that's as good as them, but still, we can't get overconfident
and think we have every team beat. We've just to keep on playing how