BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Voters flocked to the old Bridgewater-Raynham High School building to fill out their ballots. Meanwhile, across the street, B-R's Jack Connolly was campaigning to be the best sophomore pitcher on the South Shore.
Connolly pitched eight shutout innings against Old Colony League rival Barnstable High School (5-2) en route to an 8-0 victory. The young righty, who threw 119 pitches against the Red Raiders, had a battle plan heading into the game: Set things things up with the off-speed stuff, and then let the fastball fly.
“I try to keep them off-balance with the curveball, and with the fastball I just reared back and threw it as hard as I could,” he said. “There was probably a good two- to three-mile-per-hour difference between my regular fastball and when I reared back. I felt really good.”
Bridgewater-Raynham (7-2) manager John Kearney knew his ace would rebound after a forgetful outing against Marshfield on April 25, when Connolly only lasted two innings in a 10-3 loss.
“He was in the game today, he really was. He was really pumped up and in the game,” he said. “I had a great feeling about Jack today. I just knew that, after that last start against Marshfield, he wanted to come out and just try to dominate the game.”
The Trojan offense quickly got to Barnstable's Riley Ashe, who was coming off a no-hit performance against Falmouth on April 11. B-R put up four runs in three innings against Ashe, capped off by a Tyler Carey RBI double to deep center in the third.
Ashe had some control problems, walking three batters, while hitting two others with pitches that got away.
“He looked a little nervous, and I think our kids were really good about waiting him out and making him throw a lot of pitches,” Kearney said.
Barnstable's Dan Holzman came in for long relief duty in the fourth inning and gave up four runs on five hits and four walks in four innings of work.
A Family Affair: While Connolly was pitching his best game of the season, it was his cousin, catcher Joe Freiday, calling the game from behind the plate. Freiday, a junior, said he considers Connolly the team's “virtual ace” at this point in the season.
“I've been catching for him my whole life, and we basically have it down to an art,” he said. “His off-speed was really keeping them off big time, and he would just come back with that fastball. I've never seen him throw harder. He pitched a great game.”
Connolly added that he feels a little more comfortable when he and Freiday are on the diamond together.
“Me and Joey have been playing together all of our lives, and we just have a lot of chemistry going on,” he said. “He knows exactly what pitch I want, and I never have to shake him off. Whatever you see me shake off he tells me to shake off.”
Connolly also has an older brother, Mike, who is currently playing college baseball for the University of Maine as a utility player. Mike Connolly was a team captain at B-R and played both shortstop and pitcher.
Their father, Mike Connolly Sr., was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 1982 out of East Bridgewater High as a right-handed pitcher.
“There's some good bloodlines there,” Kearney said, with a laugh.
Transformation Complete: Connolly spent most of his freshman year in the bullpen, and Kearney has used the beginning portion of this season to transition him into a starting role. Aside from the setback against Marshfield, Kearney is pleased with Connolly's development.
“Last year as a freshman he pitched in a lot of big games like this, but many of them in relief coming in with people on. He was so good. I needed him. Our staff wasn't really quite as deep last year,” he said. “He is loose now. He's ready to get in there and start for us the rest of the way. I knew he would be primed for this one.”
On the Rebound: While the loss to Bridgewater-Raynham was a setback for Barnstable, manager Joe DeMartino said he expects his team to bounce back for their next game against Nauset on Wednesday.
“I think more often than not, coming off a tough loss like this, guys show up mentally prepared. But I'm going to wait and see what they look like tomorrow before I confirm that suspicion,” he said.
The Trojans were the first team to shut-out Barnstable this season, but DeMartino felt his squad was swinging the bat well. The Red Raiders had seven hits and drew five walks but were never able to string enough together to get into an offensive rhythm.
“For the most part, I think our approach at the plate was not bad. We swung the bats and a few times took pitches we shouldn't have,” DeMartino said. “When a guy is on like that, and he's throwing his good stuff, it's hard to compete with.”