MILFORD, Mass. -- Just minutes leading up to Friday’s game against Catholic Memorial, Robert Benjamin, the senior catcher of the Milford Scarlet Hawks, was unsure if he would be able to go.
Suffering from a severe sinus infection, Benjamin told his coaches that his vision was being partially impaired due to the infection. But Benjamin wanted to play and was inserted into the starting lineup. The decision certainly paid off.
Benjamin drove in four runs, including a solo home run, to lead Milford to a commanding 9-1 victory over the Knights at Fino Field.
“I wasn’t feeling to good today,” said Benjamin, who was 2-for-3 at the plate. “I was all congested and my eyes were watering up some. I just went out there and tried to simplify things as much as possible. I went up to the plate looking fastball and wasn’t thinking about any junk pitches. This was a huge win for us. Our coaches warned us that (CM) was good, especially because they play in the Catholic Conference, but if we came out swinging we should be fine and that’s what happened.”
In their first season as a Eastern Mass. program, after spending years in Central Mass., the Scarlet Hawks have handled the transition with relative ease. Having already locked up a Division 2 playoff spot, Milford improves its record to 12-6.
“I don’t think moving to Eastern Mass. has made much of a difference for us,” first-year Scarlet Hawks head coach Paul Pellegrini said. “It all depends on how the kids are and how they respond. So far we have no complaints. We have two more regular season games left and we would like to win those to obviously get a better seed in the tournament. That’s what we are looking for right now.”
For the Knights (7-9), they now face a major uphill climb to reach the postseason. With four games remaining, CM needs to win three to qualify. The Knights have games remaining against Wachusett Regional, BC High, Boston Latin and Rhode Island power Bishop Hendricken.
“We’re not pitching well, not hitting well and not fielding well,” said CM head coach Hal Carey. “We’re not playing well against the good teams that we play. We aren’t playing with a sense of urgency. Playing games where you need to make the tournament you would figure to see a little more intensity out there and score a few more runs. We’re just not getting that.”
The Knights fell behind 3-0 after the first inning. Starting pitcher Joey Lyons ran into trouble immediately after surrendering singles to Brendan Pounds and Jon O’Neil (3-for-3, RBI) and then walking Eric Fernandes to load the bases. One out later, Mike Tracy hit a routine grounder to third baseman Tyler Bell. But the freshman booted the ball allowing Pounds to cross the plate. Lyons next walked Alex Tonkonogy bringing in another run, and Benjamin followed with a SAC fly to left to score Fernandes with Milford’s third run.
Meanwhile, Scarlet Hawks righty Cam Cossette (CG, 6 hits, 3 Ks) was holding the Knights’ offense in check and keeping them off the board. Milford would open this one up in the fourth. Benjamin led the frame off by blasting a shot deep into the cavernous center field area for an inside-the-park home run.
Moments later, the Scarlet Hawks put runners on second and third, thus spelling an end to Lyons’ afternoon. Curtis Tirone came on promptly served up a run-scoring single to O’Neil. A wild pitch led to Milford’s sixth run. The Scarlet Hawks would again load the bases and Tirone walked Tonkonogy to force in another run. In his second trip to the plate in the inning, Benjamin followed with a two-run single to center.
The Knights scored their lone run in the fifth. Bell doubled and would score on a wild pitch.
“We’ve really been hitting the ball well,” Pellegrini said. “A lot of credit goes to our kids for waiting for the right pitch. I keep telling the kids to look fastball. Not a lot of kids are going throw their off-speed stuff consistently over the plate so lets look fastball and get ready to hit it and that’s what happened today.
"Cam isn’t over-powering on the mound but he does hit his spots. He threw strong today. His two-seam fastball and curve ball were really working. He kept those guys off-balanced throughout which is what we are looking for out of him.”