HYANNIS, Mass. –- Pope John Paul has been the talk of the town this season, snagging headlines in their pursuit of a super-8 bid. The Lions have rolled their competition this season, running the table to a perfect 16-0 start with one final test laying in their path.
But those hopes came crashing down Saturday afternoon as big-brother Barnstable silenced the Lion bats behind a phenomenal effort from senior southpaw Chris Fowler in a 5-2 win, giving the Red Raiders bragging right over their cross-town rivals.
“The best baseball in Barnstable goes through Barnstable High, there is no question about that,” first year coach Mark Manning said. “Barnstable is back. It took us half a season but the team is playing well.”
While the loss will likely knock the Lions out of Super-8 contention, Barnstable qualified for the Div. 1 South Sectionals picking up their ninth win of the season.
“We’ll wait to hear, I don’t know how it will all play out,” PJP coach Mark Santos said. “When you are a D-4 team, you don’t have much room for error and by the same token to play a 22 game schedule its tough to run the gamut. We’ll take what our fate is, we aren’t going to cry about it. Wherever we are asked to play we’ll play.”
The Red Raiders feasted on defensive miscues in the early innings, scoring three unearned runs. The errors were early and often as Derek Estes, the second batter of the game reached on an error and scored on Jack Harrington’s RBI single. Harrington scored the game’s second run on a wild pitch to give the Red Raiders a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the second, the Lions had the Red Raiders off the board with Austin Houlihan striking out the nine-man Micah Gregory. But a dropped third strike allowed Gregory to reach base. Gregory stole second thanks to an errant throw and came around to score on Hayden Murphy’s double that was misplayed in left field.
“I think it the worst defensive game we’ve played all season and they took advantage of it,” Santos said. “That’s a good club, that’s a Division 1 club that can cause some problems when the get into the tournament.”
T.J. Wardwell plated two more in the third inning with a two-run single thanks to more defensive miscues to put Barnstable on top 5-0.
A pitcher's best friend: The lead was more than enough for Fowler, who retired the first seven batters he faced. Fowler’s command of the strike zone was on point, but it was the double play ball that kept the Lions off the base paths.
While the Red Raiders were taking advantage of errors the PJP couldn’t capitalize on their chances. Twice the Lions got their leadoff man on base via an error and another leadoff walk, but in all three instances Fowler induced the twin-killer to keep the Lions at bay.
“I was pretty much just mixing it up all day, first pitch strikes every inning and trying to get the first batter out,” Fowler said. “Usually I’m a strikeout pitcher but today the grounders worked.”
Raiders heating up: It has been a roller coaster season for the Red Raiders, but they are beginning to heat up at the right time. Barnstable is coming off an extra-inning victory over rival Dennis-Yarmouth on Thursday.
“My team right now is exactly where they should be to be quite honest,” Manning said. “We’ve had a long hard season and a lot of one run games. I love the way they are playing now, they are banging the bats real well.”