Billerica's Nolan Dawson delivers a two-hit shutout in baseball victory


Billerica High pitcher Nolan Dawson threw a two-hit shutout in a 2-0 tournament win over Minnechaug. (Christopher Hurley/Lowell Sun)

BILLERICA – Nolan Dawson was simply unflappable against the Falcons.

The Billerica High School junior pitched a brilliant two-hit shutout as the No. 13 Indians defeated No. 20 Minnechaug 2-0 in a Division 2 of 32 baseball game on Sunday.

Billerica (14-7) advances to play No. 4 Milford or No. 29 Hingham in the round of 16.

“That's the name of baseball, pitching, timely defense and hitting,” said Billerica coach Joe Higgins. “We got an unbelievable, unbelievable performance from Nolan Dawson. A complete game, two-hit performance. It was great.”

Dawson, a right-handed pitcher, got off to a good start, pitching seven strong innings, holding the Falcons to just two hits and one walk, hitting one batter and striking out five players.

“It feels great,” said 18-year-old Dawson. “Throwing strikes, making plays, that's all we had to do. We knew what we had to do.”

“He did a good job with his three pitches,” Higgins said. “But the most important thing about him is that he got ahead of the hitters. He was always ahead. Had a good fastball, a nice little deuce and a changeup. It all worked out today.”

Billerica got on the scoresheet early thanks to a typical effort from Gus O'Gara. The Indians' shortstop hit a leadoff single into shallow right field and aggressively took second base after the ball got past right fielder Tim Harrigan. Just a few throws later, he stole third base before racing home a sacrifice fly to right by John Taft for a 1-0 lead at the end of the first.

“We have a leadoff hitter who is so aggressive on the bases,” Higgins said. “He got us the first run and we scored on time.”

That was all the offense Billerica needed, as Dawson took over from there. The 6-foot-3, 150-pound pitcher allowed just two singles in the first and third innings, both to Minnechaug cleanup hitter Ryan Atkin.

“It was nice to have some security there,” Dawson said. “I love it when that happens, when we score runs and I feel comfortable out there.”

Dawson escaped a difficult situation in the second inning with two runners on base by catching leadoff hitter Bryce Barlow, who was facing a third strike. The pitcher only let the ball out of the infield four times.

He believed that his fastball was his bread and butter.

“I didn't throw a lot of off-speed pitches, just fastballs,” Dawson said. “I threw the ball past them and tried to get it to their knees so they'd ground out. That worked out well.”

Will Calzini (2 hits, RBI) also provided momentum from the bottom of the batting order, hitting an RBI double in the fourth inning and giving Justin Poirier the final run.

Billerica had five hits against Minnechaug starter Ethan Purcell, including a double by Ryan Nelson in the second inning.

Despite his team making five infield errors, Dawson never lost his composure, leaving eight Falcon runners behind before retiring the team in the seventh inning to seal the win.

It was a fantastic first step for Higgins and his team. The longtime Billerica coach will retire at the end of the season after a total of 40 years as a baseball coach.

“I'm hanging them up,” said Higgins, who coached at Billerica for 28 years, including 16 with the varsity team and 12 with Concord-Carlisle. “They had a great time for me. It's just a great way to say goodbye when you win your league championship in D2, make the tournament and win the first game. Last year we lost to a strong Plymouth North team, but it was quite a streak. I was fortunate to have a lot of good players.”

According to Dawson, the team is ready to make this push into the postseason even more memorable for their coach.

“We're willing to do anything for him,” Dawson said. “He deserves it.”