SUDBURY, Mass. -- Eventually it was the only game left to finish.
All the other games and practices taking place on the adjacent to Lincoln-Sudbury's baseball contest with rival Acton-Boxborough had ended. Even as the seventh inning started, there was no telling when the game was going to end.
For six innings, L-S’ Sid Warrenbrand, a Tufts baseball commit, and AB’s Noah Zavolas, a Harvard baseball commit, were locked in a scoreless pitchers' duel. That was, until A-B coach Pat Grucela decided to insert Tim Hurley as a pinch hitter.
Two batters earlier, Lewis Heinlein had singled to center. He then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Hurley stepped into the batters box and launched the first pitch he saw over the head of the left fielder to score Heinlein for the only run of the game. The Colonials defeated L-S, 1-0.
Hurley, a sophomore, is new to the varsity level. Still, his coach played a hunch and it payed off in a big moment.
“I’ve been around enough now to know [L-S head coach] Kirk [Fredricks] and Matty [Blake, L-S pitching coach] over there and the coaching staff, and they have a pitch book on every hitter just like we do,” said Grucela. “I just felt the sophomore who didn’t know any better, who has been swinging the bat pretty well for us, that they might not have much on, might be able to do something. And I got lucky.
“Tim has been swinging a good bat in practice, and I always try to watch guys in practice and see how they’re doing. I just felt that at some point, in a game like that, you’ve got to do something to change the status quo once in a while, and I just felt that was the right time to do it.”
The A-B lineup had been up against Warrenbrand three times and had a feel for how he chose to attack the hitters. Hurley heard all the conversation and had a plan of his own heading into the at-bat.
“I know he has a good curveball because I was watching him from the bench,” he said. “Coach put me in and I choked up on the bat and he threw the fastball, but if he threw the curveball I was going to wait back on it and try to hit the ball into right field. But luckily I got the fastball belt-high and I put a good swing on it.”
Still, L-S was not going to go quietly. Ryan Beradino and Gino Fordiani lead off the bottom of the seventh with back-to-back singles. They each advanced into scoring position on a successful double-steal. One hit would tie the game.
As he had done all game, Zavolas fought through the adversity and got the next three batters to strike out swinging to get the win over his team’s Dual County League Large rival.
“That was a case of the first guy (Beradino), I threw him a curveball and he was behind on my fastball all day and I probably should’ve climbed the ladder on him,” he said. “That was kind of alright, whatever. The second one (Fordiani),I threw a fastball and the kid had been a slap hitter all day. That was a case of I probably should have gone to the breaking stuff, I probably should have thrown a slider away. They put good swings on the ball.”
A-B almost got on the board in the second inning against Warrenbrand when Dave Fallon walked to start the inning and Heinlein singled to put two runners on base with one out. They each advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch. However, Warrenbrand was able to strike out the next two batters to strand both runners and end the inning.
The L-S senior left the mound after 6.2 innings, allowing 1 run, surrendering 4 hits and 3 walks. He threw 103 pitches.
The same sequence happened to L-S in the bottom of the inning. Fordiani and Tom Novick were able to advance to second and third base with one out courtesy of a Zavolas wild pitch. However, he also came back and struck out the next two batters to end the half inning.
Even though the season is about a month old, Monday’s game still carried a lot of weight for the Colonials.
“This is the biggest game we play all year, no matter what,” said Zavolas. “This is a game we have to win. Even if we’re completely out of the DCL Large running, even if we’re out, LS is always the biggest game we play. They’re our rivals. We love to compete against them, we match up very well with them almost every year, and it’s always a good game. It was 1-0, you can’t ask for anything else in a baseball game.”
Weathering the conditions: Pitching in cold and uncomfortable temperatures came to the forefront of the national sports dialogue when New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected from a game against the Boston Red Sox recently for having pine tar, an illegal substance, on his neck. While it is recognized many professional pitchers use something to give them a better grip on the ball, high school pitchers have to simply work with the conditions.
Even though there was a slight breeze and a chill during the game Monday, both pitchers effective and around the plate. Zavolas in particular was able to generate a lot of spin on the ball and get solid movement on his breaking pitches.
“Today is a little bit damp, so I went to my mouth a lot, blew on my hand a lot, and that was fine,” he said. “I didn’t have to do any Michael Pineda stuff. It was a little windy, a little cool, but that didn’t really effect the grip at all.”
He struck out 10 and walked no batters in the complete game shutout while allowing four hits and throwing 100 pitches.