BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -– Even though No. 2 Bridgewater-Raynham had a chance to clinch at least a tie Thursday for the Old Colony League title, coach John Kearney wasn’t all smiles before the first pitch was thrown.
“If you start looking too far ahead, I don’t think you’re going to be very successful,” Kearney said after the Trojans blanked Dartmouth, 8-0. “We try to keep the kids level-headed. We saw that when Durfee upset us a week ago. You get a little ahead of yourself and those things happen.
“We’ve played some really good teams. This Dartmouth team (0-3, 11-5) had won eight in a row. This was a big game for us. The last three games we had given up six, five and five runs. We had won two of three. But we had given up 16 runs the last three games. We needed a game like this to get back on track.
“We talked about getting back to playing good defense and getting good pitching,” Kearney continued, “and let the hitting take care of itself.”
Suffice to say the Trojans (3-0, 14-1) came up big in all categories.
They did commit one error but otherwise made all the plays when they had to be made.
Jack Connolly took care of the pitching since he went the distance on a five-hitter, walked three, struck out 10 and threw 73 of 110 pitches for strikes.
Joe Freiday and Tyler Carey took care of a large measure of the hitting.
Freiday bashed his seventh homer of the season, a three-run shot off Dan Southerland in the first.
Carey emulated his teammate in the second when he belted his fourth homer, a two-run blast in the second that gave B-R a quick 5-0 lead.
The fact B-R built such a big lead so early in the game enabled Connolly to relax.
Time to exhale: “It’s good to rely on the offense,” said Connolly. “I don’t have to get worried out there because we’re always on top. It’s a great feeling to be on top while you’re pitching.
“You feel so much more confident when you’re up. Usually every time I pitch we’re on top and cruising good.”
Connolly, for all intents and purposes, operated in cruise control for the entire seven innings. After he threw his final pitch, his record stood at 7-1 with a microscopic 1.19 ERA plus 60 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings.
“He’s got a great breaking ball,” Kearney said of his junior right-hander who’s already committed to playing his college ball at Notre Dame. “That’s his best pitch. He throws in the mid-80s. But his best pitch is his breaking ball and he has two different kinds. He has a hard slider and a little bit more of a curveball and that was on today from the beginning.
“When he’s on like that with his breaking ball, he’s tough to hit.”
Connolly allowed only four Dartmouth base runners to advance as far as second – and one was on a balk and another on a passed ball. And one of the five hits he allowed (a first-inning single by Jack Sylvia) was a blooper instead of a line drive).
Tough in the clutch: “He always comes up big in the big games,” Kearney said. “Last year, when we won the OCL, Jack pitched two of those four wins. He just rises to the occasion in the big games.
“He’s good overall. But he just really steps it up another notch. He took it to heart when we talked about how we had to shut teams down. I think you could see he was ready in pre-game. When he was warming up in the bullpen he was really sharp.”
B-R added a trio of runs in the fifth, two on a triple by Corey Wasylow who later scored on a wild pitch.
Arguably the only question that remains to be answered is will the Trojans be picked to compete in the Super 8 Tournament?
“You try to set your goals and one is to make the tournament which obviously we did,” Kearney said. “The other is to win the league and we’ve clinched a tie.
“(The Super 8 Tournament) is on everybody’s mind. But all we can do is win as many as we can and play our best baseball and hope the committee picks you. It’s only going to be eight teams out of the entire state. If it happens, that’s awesome.”