NEWTON, Mass. -- After No. 3 Newton North battled past No. 5 Braintree, 2-1 in extra innings, in the first meeting this season, expectations for the encore were another low scoring bout.
When they met in a crucial Bay State Carey matchup on Wednesday at Newton North, the pitchers for both sides were as dominant as ever, and this time around the Wamps flipped the script and delivered a 2-1 win of their own.
Braintree’s pitching staff turned in one of its finest performances of the year, with starter and winning pitcher Scott Creedon, as well as relievers Scott Strachan and Bob McNiff combining on 15 strikeouts and just four hits allowed in the win –- all despite a double header last Saturday that the Wamps pitching somewhat taxed.
“We’re a little bit short-handed,” said Braintree coach Bill O’Connell. “Scotty Creedon is our sophomore pitcher who pitched on Saturday, so we were hoping to get four innings out of him and he gave us five. Scott Straichan came in and he’s more of an offspeed guy from the left side. He did his job and he bridged the gap.
"Bob McNiff pitched in the second game of our double header on Saturday, so this wasn’t an ideal situation for us and we kind of pieced it together, and it almost never works out the way you want it but today it did.”
Creedon set the tone for the day by striking out the side in the bottom of the first, and he finished with nine strikeouts while scattering three hits over his five innings.
The lone blemish that came against the Wamps (10-1) was when North catcher Alex Joyce blistered a liner over third base and raced all the way around to third as the ball rolled deep down the left field line. When a relay throw on the play got away and bounced into the Tigers (10-1) dugout, Joyce was awarded home for a 1-0 lead.
“We felt like we couldn’t give them any extra outs, any extra runs,” said O’Connell. “We felt like we gave them one there but we were able to claw back. We played pretty good defense and got some big hits when we needed to. It comes down to pitching and defense and we got that today.”
Newton North’s biggest threat came at the end of Creedon’s outing, when an error and a singled forced him from the game in the top of the sixth. Strachan struck out the first hitter he faced, before walking the next to load the bases with one out.
When the next batter hit a one hopper back to the mound, Strachan fielded it smoothly and fired home for the first out. Gino Larossa unloaded a throw to first to finish off the double play and get Braintree out of the jam unscathed.
He settled in from there, allowing just one more base runner and finishing his three innings of work with five strikeouts. McNiff came on for the save in the ninth, and after the first hitter reached on an error, he retired three straight, including inducing a bat shattering ground out to end it.
Braintree got on the board in the second inning after Cal Berman walked and Larossa blasted a double to right center to kick off the inning. A fielder’s choice off the bat of Colin Rios drove in Berman, but Newton North starter Dylan Sbordone (5 and 1/3 innings, 1 earned run, nine strikeouts) recorded a pair of strikeouts with Braintree threatening for more, and left the bases loaded when the inning ended.
Braintree took the lead in the fourth when Rios (2-for-4) singled into left and Anthony Venutti followed with a deep triple to left center that fell when two North players collided chasing the ball.
Venutti was left stranded in scoring position, something that proved to be a common theme for Braintree throughout the game. In total, they left eight runners in scoring position and had two more thrown out at on aggressive plays at the plate -– signaling the Tigers made timely pitches to keep this one close.
“They’re a good team and I was telling my kids I’m proud of them in the fact that we were on the edge, I don’t even know how many innings, but our pitchers just made great pitches and did a great job,” said Tigers coach Joe Siciliano. “One or two mistakes, but we really hung in.”
Hanging in wasn’t enough though because of the dominance of Braintree’s arms, and only two hitters for North registered hits in the loss. Joyce finished 3-for-4, and Curtis Beatrice added a single and a walk for the Tigers. The struggles of the Tigers to put the bat on the ball proved to be the difference in this one.
“Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely,” said Siciliano. “We’ve gotta do a much better job and I think we will. The kids realize 15 strikeouts is no good. You gotta put the ball in play and put a little more pressure on them and we really didn’t today.”