LOWELL, Mass. -- Matt Tulley pitched Lowell High School one game closer to winning the Merrimack Valley Conference outright with a complete game, two-hit, 10 strikeout, 2-0 victory over conference foe Chelmsford High School Friday.
“We shared (the MVC title) last year and we’re still in a position where if we win, it’s guaranteed ours,” said Lowell head coach Danny Graham. “If we would have lost and they were to win their last league game, there would be a co-champ, but we want to take it on our own this year, we definitely want to win it.”
Tulley’s first two innings were quiet, but he found himself in trouble in the third. He walked Colin Clancy to start the inning, and Clancy then advanced to second on a passed ball, which put a runnier in scoring position with no outs. After Joe Gennaro grounded out to second, Clancy was on third with one out, seemingly able to score on a sacrifice fly or ground out to the right side of the infield. The next sequence showed why Tulley is considered one of the best pitchers in the Merrimack Valley, if not the state.
Even though he was facing the top of the Chelmsford lineup, he struck out the next two batters, defusing the strongest scoring threat Chelmsford had all game. He then came out the next inning, facing the Chelmsford No. 3, 4, and 5 hitters and struck out the side.
“He reaches back and gets the outs when he has to, I saw him do it early in the game and again in the middle innings,” said Graham. “Once we got those runs (in the third), I always say you have to go out and have shut down innings, and he did that three times in a row. From a momentum standpoint, that obviously keeps us in a good position in the game.”
Tulley was also responsible for Lowell’s only runs offensively. Derek Reed lead off the third inning with a single, and then stole second. A throwing error by the third baseman allowed Rory O’Connor to reach base and put runners on the corners for Tulley. On the eighth pitch of his at-bat, he lined a single to right-centerfield, bringing in Reed and getting O’Connor to third.
“It was a long at-bat and I was watching something on Dustin Pedroia last night how he just fights every at-bat, and I just had that in mind,” he said.
O’Connor was able to score because Tulley was caught in a rundown between first and second when he tried to take the extra base on the throw in to the infield. He was able slide back to first safely, beating the rundown, and letting O’Connor score the second run of the game.
Not happy with the two-run lead, Graham tried to manufacture a run in the fourth with Chad Gens on third and no outs. Gens made a dash for home with R.J. Noel squared around to bunt, but he missed the pitch, leaving the runner in the difficult position of getting back to third after running most of the way up the baseline.
“Our offense has shown a lack of consistency as of late but that’s not because we’re not capable, I think it’s just because we need to buy in a little bit more and do what the kids are being asked to do,” said Graham.
Regardless of the mistake, Tulley was able to keep Chelmsford off the board and not let a runner get beyond second base for the remainder of the game.
“This is the best I’ve felt after a game because the past three years Chelmsford has belted me around,” he said. “Now that I’ve pitched well against them I feel good.”