WINTHROP — Much of Winthrop High School’s tender baseball roster crosses over into the town’s Babe Ruth program on weekends.

The double duty is a double-edged sword. There’s a danger of the youngest Ramblers feeling awestruck by the higher level of competition they encounter in the Mountain Valley Conference. But there’s also game toughness and a familiarity with playoff pressure that money can’t buy.

That knowledge served No. 7 Winthrop well Tuesday in an 8-6 Western Class C preliminary verdict over No. 10 Madison, a showcase in which freshmen Ben Allen, Mario Meucci and Dakota Carter exhibited no ninth-grade angst.

Allen, a lanky left-hander, spun five fabulous innings to pick up the win in relief of senior Tyler Foster. Meucci mashed a two-run double in the first inning. Carter cracked a two-run single in the third.

“I’ve been playing with these guys for a while. It’s always kind of been our sport,” Allen said. “We’ve had some success pretty much everywhere. It’s starting to carry over, and hopefully in a couple of years we’re going to bring home something good.”

Not that this season’s journey is over. Winthrop (8-7) will send senior ace Tyler Reeve to the hill Thursday at No. 2 St. Dom’s in the quarterfinals.

Winthrop avenged a 10-1 loss at Madison in the second week of the MVC regular season. The Bulldogs, who had four seniors either quit or suspended late in the campaign, finished 6-11 after losing seven of their final eight games.

“We’re on the right side of it, so we’re pretty happy,“ Winthrop coach Marc Fortin said. “We’ve got a young group of kids. We didn’t expect to be in the playoffs. This is way past our expectations.”

Reeve, Meucci and sophomore Zach Steele each had two hits for the Ramblers. Winthrop waited out a 30-minute rain delay in the middle of the sixth inning before punching its ticket to the next round.

Allen allowed two inherited runners to score in the third, yielding Madison its lone lead of the day at 5-4. He was exceptional for the duration, however, allowing only two hits and a single run.

“I prefer coming into a game in relief rather than starting a game,” said Allen, who shone in that role in the first meeting with Madison as well as a midseason win over Monmouth.

Winthrop reclaimed the lead with two third-inning runs. Reeve’s leadoff single and Tyler Stockford’s sacrifice bunt attempt that ended with everyone safe set the table for Carter’s line drive through the box.

The Ramblers made it 7-5 in the fourth when Steele beat out the first of his two infield singles in front of a Reeve double.

In the fifth, Allen drew a two-out walk, moved to second on a Garrett Emery wild pitch, advanced to third on Steele’s second safety and scored on another wild pitch.

“We thought this was going to be quite a learning curve for these young guys. We’ve been starting two, three, four freshmen all year, and a couple of sophomores,” Fortin said. “Once Babe Ruth started, they’re beating everybody by 20 runs and then coming in here and seeing this afterwards.”

Allen ran into trouble in the rain-soaked sixth. Derek LeBlanc beat out a bunt single. Cody Soucier walked and Emery was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

K.P. Carpenter’s grounder to shortstop brought the Bulldogs within two runs but represented the second out. Allen got Jack Money to fly out to center to quell the threat before the umpires briefly halted the proceedings.

“The quick dry (on the mound) was working through that, but gripping the ball just got a little hard,” Allen said. “It got a little annoying having to change balls every pitch.”

Allen walked Tristan Emery and LeBlanc with two out to put the tying run aboard in the seventh. Fortin was briefly tempted to go with Reeve, but Soucier’s fly to Drew Stratton in center quietly ended it.

“After the second base runner, I wasn’t going to give him a third,“ Fortin said. “But Tyler just needs so much preparation.”

Money (2-for-4) and Soucier had RBI singles for the Bulldogs. Emery went the route, allowing nine hits.

Foster supplemented Meucci’s double with a run-producing hit in the Winthrop first.

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