Red Raiders Get Lift from Gloves in Win
LUNENBURG -- Sometimes it’s not the quantity of hits a team gets that wins ballgames. Sometimes its your pitching and defense.
And sometimes, it’s just the defense.
The Fitchburg baseball team did not necessarily bring the lumber with them to Marshall Park Monday afternoon, notching just three hits, and starting pitcher Jamison Carroll did not necessarily have his best stuff on the bump, but it didn’t matter as the Red Raider defense -- particularly the middle infield -- did plenty to hold host Lunenburg in a 2-1 Fitchburg victory.
The win lifts Fitchburg to 6-2 on the season with a key Mid-Wach C tilt slated for Wednesday, weather permitting, against North Middlesex Regional in Fitchburg.
Lunenburg, which plays Ayer Shirley in a game moved up to today from Friday, drops to 2-6.
That record for the Blue Knights is not indicative of the way they play the game: in three of the six losses, LHS has lost by a solitary run, and in two, it’s lost by three runs. The problem with this young team? The lack of a critical, clutch hit, which hampered the Knights Monday.
While Lunenburg had six hits off Carroll and had a dozen men on base, Fitchburg middle infielders Anthony Silverio and Zach Scott were like vacuums with two out, as the Knights hit into three 6-4 fielder’s choice force outs at second base.
But they saved the biggest one for the bottom half of the seventh, with FHS senior reliever Will Vargo looking to nail down the save.
With the bases loaded thanks to the lone error of the game coming off the bat of Collin Garrity, a walk to Cooper Mathews, a sac bunt by Josh Proctor, and an intentional walk to cleanup hitter Chris Costich, Braeden Nash grounded sharply to Silverio, playing at double-play depth.
Silverio flipped to Scott, who spun it to Brandon Dubuque at first to end the game.
″(Costich) was the No. 4 hitter and you just got to respect that, and you have to hope what happened happens,” said FHS skipper Ray Cosenza. “Will threw a great pitch, and we made a nice turn. That run meant nothing; getting the force (at second) was key.”
“Most of the games this year, we’re in a position to win,” said longtime Blue Knights bench boss Bob Robuccio. “We’re getting really good pitching and really good defense, but we just can’t get that clutch hit when we need it. What, we have the bases loaded twice today? We got nothing out of it.
“We’re putting the ball in play, but we’re not doing it at the right time. It took a lot for me to have (Proctor) put a bunt down in that situation; he’s our hottest hitter right now, and with two seniors right behind him who can put the ball in play, you have to do what’s right. That’s the winning run moving to second.”
Along with the defense, Carroll battled on the bump, doing just enough to help his team earn the victory. The Dean-bound senior threw 92 pitches and went through the Lunenburg order three times, and while he yielded only the one run, he had difficulty in getting ahead of hitters. He threw 14 first-pitch balls, with nine of them to the first 14 hitters he faced.
He finally settled in, retiring five straight -- he went first-pitch strike to all of them -- before Mathews’ two-out double in the fifth.
Mathews scored on Proctor’s base hit.
Still, he fanned four, walked three in the second inning -- which saw Silverio’s first 6-4 force out assist to end the frame -- and gave up six hits while earning the win.
“That’s the thing about (Carroll); he’s always going to give you a great effort,” Cosenza said, “even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, and today was one of those days. He just battled and battled, gave us a chance to win, and we got the ‘W’. That’s what he does; I never worry about him not giving us his best effort.
“He was starting to labor (in the sixth) and Will’s arm was fresh.”
Fitchburg took a 1-0 lead in the top off the first.
Scott earned a one-out walk off Lunenburg’s Nick Ouellette before the sophomore fanned Silverio with a pitch high and outside. But Dubuque hit a flare to right-center, motoring Scott to third.
Vargo walked to load the bases and a walk to Carroll brought Scott in.
It stayed that way until the third.
Ouellette plunked Scott with the second pitch of the inning, and he once again went to third on a Dubuque single.
With Vargo at the dish, Fitchburg executed a double steal, with Scott sliding under the tag for the eventual game-winning run.
Fitchburg’s only other hit off Ouellette? A one-out base hit by Vargo in the sixth.
“We didn’t hit today,” Cosenza said. “We had to steal a run or two; (Lunenburg) played really well, and we’re glad to get out of here with a win. We didn’t swing the bats as well as we’re capable of.”
Ouellette fanned four, utilizing a sharp fastball to keep FHS off-balance. He walked three, all in the first, throwing 83 pitches.
“He’s got a really live arm, a big strong kid,” Robuccio said. “He’s a competitor who loves to compete, loves the game; it doesn’t matter who he’s pitching against. He’s going to go out there and pitch his best; nothing intimidates him.”