TAUNTON, Mass. – Mansfield senior Tyler Dalton found himself in an unusual spot on Monday afternoon, looking to bounce back after a tough outing in his last start.
Dalton allowed nine runs – six earned – in his previous start on the road at Oliver Ames. But with a chance to bounce back, Dalton was at his best. The senior right-hander allowed just two hits — only one out of the infield — while striking out 10 and walking just one in a complete game effort, helping the Hornets pull out a 7-2 win over Taunton.
“After his bullpen, the only thing he said to me was ‘We’re not losing today,’ and I could see the look on his face, you just knew he was going to go out and deal,” said Mansfield head coach Joe Breen. “He knew what he was up against with Taunton being a good team and [Jack] Moynihan being one of best pitchers in the league. He had his work cut out for him, but he certainly met the challenge, that’s for sure.”
Dalton limited Taunton to one hit in the third and one in the fourth, the two innings the Tigers scored single runs. Beyond that, he faced the minimum in the first, second, fifth, sixth, and seventh. Taunton had a runner in the second (HBP), but he was erased by catcher Cullin Anastasia trying to steal second.
He also recorded at least one strike out in every inning, getting a pair of Ks in each the second, third, and sixth innings.
After a pair of scoreless innings, Taunton finally broke through in the bottom of the third. Griffin Tomaszycki battled back from down 0-2 in the count to lead off with a walk. He then took second on a ground out from Andrew Gomes and came around on a sharp grounder down the first base line from Josh Lajoie to make it 1-0.
Mansfield got its first two hits of the game in the top of the fourth with Dan Saraceno and Dalton both singling. Dalton and Kevin Dow (reached on fielder’s choice) got to second and third with two outs but Taunton starter Jack Moynihan got the final out to prevent any damage.
Taunton added to its lead in the bottom of the fourth. Senior Jacob Crawford reached after an infield error and took second when he beat the throw on Tyler Medeiros’ ground ball. With two outs, Tomaszycki hit a hard ball to the left side of the infield for a single, but the throw was off which allowed Crawford to come home from third to make it 2-0.
“I think the first few games of the season, once we got to two strikes in the count, we were pretty much an automatic ‘K,’” Breen said. “We’ve really changed our approach with two strikes over the last month and the guys are really taking to it. Everyone is up there battling with two strikes, and once we get two strikes, we’re not an easy out anymore. I think that pesky attitude paid off and we put some balls in play.”
Mansfield’s offense continued in the top of the sixth inning. Dalton drew a one-out walk, ending Moynihan’s day on the mound. Dalton took second on a passed ball and scored on a hard hit ball by Anastasia, who took second on the throw to home. With Anastasia taking off, he came around to score on another infield error to make it 4-2.
“You can’t do it, we’re hurting ourselves,” said Taunton head coach Blair Bourque of his team’s six errors. ”We didn’t leave guys on base too much today, obviously [Dalton] pitched an outstanding game today. But we have to eliminate the mistakes and have to play sound baseball because we’re not that great of an offensive team. Any extra bags or extra outs, they come back to haunt you and it’s killing us right now.”
The Hornets put the game out of reach with three insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning. Saraceno was hit by a pitch with one out and moved all the way to third on an errant pick off attempt. Dow drove Saraceno in with an RBI single. Another error proved costly for Taunton as Anastasia was able to reach and Dow came all the way around make it 6-2.
Anastasia took third on that error and came home on a line drive single from Pena.
“If you told me we were going to get seven runs today, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Breen said. “I knew we’d have a few baserunners and that we’d have to maximize those guys as much as possible. We knew getting an extra 90 here or there, with a steal or something, would be huge. We have a lot of good athletes with some wheels, so we definitely want to use that as much as possible.”
Despite suffering the loss, Moynihan pitched well, allowing just one earned run in 5.1 innings of work, four hits, one walk, and three strikeouts.
“I don’t think he had much on his fastball today, so he did really well for himself to work the off-speed pitch and do as well as he did without necessarily his best fastball,” Bourque said of Moynihan. “He’s learning how to be a pitcher, not just a thrower. In games when you don’t have your best stuff and can still get guys out is something he can be commended for. But we have to help him out and make sure we’re making those plays.”
Mansfield baseball (6-3 Hockomock, 8-3 overall) will try to extend its win streak to five when it hosts Attleboro on Wednesday afternoon. Taunton (5-4, 8-4) will try to bounce back the same day when it hosts Franklin.
“At this point, every game you win is the biggest of the season,” Breen said. “Being able to come on the road and beat a good team, especially with a good pitcher like that…we’ve had this one marked on the calendar for a while especially after the first game and the boys were certainly up for the challenge.”