QUINCY — Ashland manager Jake Obid felt his 2020 squad, stocked with powerful hitters and a deep pitching staff, could have made a run to the American Legion World Series.
But after Legion, nationally and stateside, cancelled its baseball season in early May due to COVID-19, Ashland joined the Massachusetts Independent Baseball League and set its sights on winning the inaugural championship instead.
On Friday night, Ashland accomplished that feat with a 7-1 win over Medfield at Adams Field, capping off an unconventional summer baseball season with a championship celebration.
Tyler Dossas led the way with a dominant complete game performance and Kevin Balewicz broke the game open with a 2-run triple in the fifth for an Ashland which had lost to Lawrence in the 2019 Legion state final.
“We have a great group that has been here for a long time,” said Obid. “We weren’t able to make it to the Legion World Series obviously, but we set our goal as this. At a time in our lives that all of us are farther apart than ever, this group came together and worked on one common goal and did something special.”
Facing Medfield (18-5) for the third straight night, Ashland (20-3) got its slumping bats going early when Nick Calabrese lined a 2-run double down the right field line in the second inning.
After a throwing error plated a Medfield run in the fourth, Ashland took control during a 4-run fifth inning highlighted by Balewicz’s triple.
The run support was more than enough for Dossas, who kept a talented Medfield lineup off balance all game long with his funky delivery and curveball-fastball combination.
Dossas allowed just five hits and one unearned run and said that he dedicated the performance to his grandmother Sandy, who passed away last week.
“I did the game for my grandmother,” said Dossas, a 2020 Assabet Valley grad. “I just came into the game knowing we had to win. I had a lot to go for.”
Jackson Hornung, the program’s all-time hit leader, went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles in the final game of his four-year Ashland career. The catcher, who is a rising sophomore at Skidmore College, said ending his career with an MIBL title is a bittersweet feeling.
“What I’ll remember the most is these guys putting in so much effort for something that they didn’t think was going to happen,” said Hornung. “I’ve been here for four years now and having that Ashland “A” on my chest and going out with a win is the best thing that could have happened.”
Friday’s game marked the conclusion of the one-off, 16-team MIBL, which was formed by Quincy manager Steve Maze and Braintree skipper Cam Fox.
After a 15-game regular season in which every team played each other once, the league successfully navigated through four pool play pods last weekend and then the double-elimination Final Four this week.
Maze and Fox both downplayed their status as co-founders of the one-off league, saying they just wanted to get players out on the field after the virus wiped out everyone's spring season.
“Six months from now we’ll be talking about Legion baseball and the MIBL will be a thing of the past,” said Maze. “It was just something for the kids to get out and play and be a kid. The window to play organized baseball is so small. Taking a year away from those kids is an eternity.”
Obid personally thanked Maze and Fox on Twitter earlier Friday, calling this summer a success regardless of the wins and losses.
“I think everyone can agree that we are all just so happy to have some sort of normalcy, playing baseball, and competing,” said Obid. “And to win the title on top of that is great. Sending a kid like Jackson, probably the best player in Ashland history, off with a championship means the world to me. It’s something to keep these guys happy and it’s something to cherish.”