Melrose – The underdog Reading Bulldogs upset the first place finisher Andre Chiefs 3 games to 2 in the semifinals to advance to the Intercity League finals for the first time in team history.
Reading finished sixth in the regular season and since the league expanded the playoffs to six teams in 2009 is the first six seed to move past the first round and reach the finals.
The Bulldogs answered Johnny Welch’s first inning home run with single runs in five straight innings (2-6) to take a 5-2 lead into the seventh.
Reading tied the game in the second when Chris Bosco walked, went to third on Mike Taylor’s single and then came home on a double play for the first of his three runs scored. Bosco scored his second run in the fourth when he singled, moved to second on Taylor’s single, third on an infield out and scored on Johnny Hayes single. His third run and the Bulldogs fourth was in the fifth. He doubled and scored on an error by Chiefs rightfielder Mike DeCato.
The final run for the Dogs came in the sixth when Corey DiLoretto walked to start the inning. He went to third on Hayes single and scored on Kevin Marciano’s infield out, his second RBI of the game.
Jack Burke started for Reading and pitched 6.2 innings before giving way to Alex Mandrus. Mandrus came in with the bases loaded, one run in and two outs. He threw one pitch to Mike Barbati who grounded out to second base to end the game.
Barbati scored the second Chiefs run in the fourth. He singled to start the inning. Barbati moved to second on Mike Andre’s infield out and then took third on a passed ball. He scored on an infield out by Mike Gedman.
The Chiefs did not go quietly in the seventh loading the bases with one out on a single, fielders choice and walk to Welch. Matt Nuzzo walked on a 3-2 pitch to cut the lead to 5-3. Mandrus then came in and quickly preserved the win and sent Reading to the finals.
In 2011 Reading was the first fifth place team to advance to the semis beating Testa Corp. 2 games to 1. In 2012 the Bulldogs repeated the feat with a 2-1 win over Wakefield in the best of three series. Both years they played Lexington in the semis and lost 3-2 in 2011 and 3-0 in 2012. They will now face Lexington, in the finals for its 11th consecutive season, in the Bulldogs first appearance in the finals since joining the league in 2010.
Game one of the finals will be Tuesday night at Melrose’s Morelli Field.