WORCESTER — After playing 8½ scoreless innings, one got the feeling the Central Mass. Division 1 semifinal between St. Peter-Marian and Nashoba ultimately would come down to a bounce or a break.
The Guardians' Danny Malm led off the ninth with a bunt single and stood on third base with two out, looking as if he would be the next in several squandered scoring opportunities.
Malm, however, raced across to score when Ryan Donovan's pitch glanced off the catcher's mitt and bounded to the backstop, setting off a wild celebration as the Guardians walked off with a 1-0 win at Tivnan Field.
St. Peter-Marian, the No. 2 seed, improved to 16-5 and will meet Leominster here at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for the Central Mass. title.
The Chieftains finished 15-7.
"That might have been the best high school game I've ever seen or been part of," SPM coach Ed Riley said. "Much respect to Nashoba. Their pitchers (Sam Bolinsky and Donovan) were excellent and tough.
"(Nashoba coach Chuck Schoolcraft) did a nice job adjusting to some of our hitters."
Riley's team beat Nashoba, 12-3, in May, but the Chieftains would not go easily this time.
Bolinsky kept the high-powered SPM offense at bay over seven strong innings before giving way to Donovan.
Guardians ace Carter Liston was equally impressive. Liston pitched eight scoreless before Riley turned over the ball to Frank Hernandez.
"Carter carried us," Riley said. "He threw about 25 pitches more than we would have hoped, but even in his late innings, he was getting soft contact."
Nashoba had a runner reach third in the top of the ninth, but Hernandez kept his team in it when he induced an inning-ending grounder to second base.
"I told the kids to be ready to really be challenged on Saturday," Riley said. "St. Peter's and Leominster have a great history, and I think we're going to see another one of those classic games Saturday."
—Contact Tom Flanagan at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @tgsports.