The Andover Baseball team’s hard work has once again paid off in its second straight New England Championship. Andover took home the title in thrilling fashion, coming back from big deficits in both games of the Championship. Andover opened its effort to defend the title against Deerfield in the semifinals. Deerfield was already victim of a double-header sweep at the hands of Andover earlier this season, when both the games were decided by two runs. Deerfield left the field heartbroken again; it blew a 3-0 lead to lose 7-6. Deerfield came out of the gate hot, picking up three runs against starter Preston Atteberry ’08 in the top of the first inning. Andover responded by earning three runs in the bottom of the first–all with two outs. Co-Captain Mike Ciummei ’08 walked and was followed by three straight hits from Ryan McCarthy ’08, Bobby Farnham ’08, and Jack Walsh ’08. Deerfield came back in the top of the second to score two more runs and make the score 5-3. Another run in the third inning chased Atteberry. Bryan Farris ’08 came in relief to shut down Deerfield over the last 5 innings. Andover cut the lead to 6-4 when Ciummei hit a triple and scored on a wild pitch. In the top of the sixth inning, Farris was in a jam with a runner on third. A wild pitch led to an out as Farris managed to cover the plate and tag the runner on a nice throw by catcher Geoff Lynch ’09. As Coach Cline said, “The big defensive play gave us a spark.” In the bottom of the sixth, Co-Captain JR Santaniello ’08 rode the momentum and belted a clutch, game-tying, two-run homer over centerfield. Andover went ahead on a walk from Mike Palermo ’08, a single by Ciummei, and a single by McCarthy. Deerfield, trying to respond, got a runner on first with one out in the seventh. Two Deerfield batters later, a hard hit ball belted to right and appeared to be headed for a double, but Walsh raced to track it down and dived into the bushes for a game ending catch. As if the semifinal wasn’t heart-pumping enough, Andover one-upped its performance in the finals in an extra-inning affair against Worcester Academy. It was basically a road game for Andover, as the playoffs were moved to Worcester Academy due to flooding. But, Andover still batted as the home team, which proved to be very crucial. Andover began with another rocky start. Worcester banged out two runs on three hits. By the fourth inning, Andover was trailing 4-0 after giving up two unearned runs. Andover faced an almost identical situation in last year’s finals. Trailing 6-0, it made a tremendous comeback, winning 9-6. The common thread between last year’s team and the current squad: the starting pitcher Santaniello. Andover pulled back into the game during the fourth inning. Palermo led off with a single and reached third on a double by McCarthy. Bobby Farnham ’08 scored Palermo on an RBI single. An infield grounder from Lynch drove in McCarthy, and Farnham scored on an error by the first baseman. Andover completed the rally in the fifth when McCarthy scored Santaniello on a single. The game stayed tied at four all the way to the ninth inning. Glenn Stowell ’09 was lights out in relief, as was Worcester’s reliever. In the bottom of the ninth, Lynch was on first from a hit-by-pitch when Farris came up to the plate. Farris hit a drive deep to center that bounced off the centerfielder’s glove. Lynch ran from first to beat a close play at home and send Andover home the winner. Andover’s bench erupted, as the team celebrated its seventh Central New England title.