By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Contributor
ATTLEBORO, Mass. — Thanks to some aggressive baserunning and a fantastic pitching performance from Russell Dunlap, the North Attleboro baseball team avenged their loss earlier in the season to Attleboro with an 11-3 win at Hayward Field in Attleboro.
Despite the game being played in Attleboro, it was a home game for North as the game was previously scheduled to be played at Community Field before a time change necessitated the location be switched.
The Red Rocketeers got off to a quick start in the bottom of the first, as Jared Penta singled and stole second and then advanced to third on a Nick Raneri groundout. A wild pitch then brought Penta home to give North a 1-0 lead. Later in the inning, Todd Robinson singled and then stole second and came around to score on a throwing error by the catcher trying to nab him stealing third.
After Robinson scored, Jake Palmer singled and was brought home by Shawn Watters’ double to left to give North a 3-0 lead after an inning of play.
North’s aggressiveness on the basepaths paid dividends, as it tallied five steals in the game.
“We were just trying to put the pressure on, that’s the kind of team we are, that’s what we need to be, aggressive, and I know the kids really like to be,” North Attleboro manager Mike Hart said about his team’s strategy on the bases.
Attleboro picked up a run of its own in the top of the second, as Lorenzo Wilson singled and stole second and then advanced to third on a single by Ryan Morry. Wilson scored on a balk when North attempted to pick off Morry, who left early for second. Back-to-back strikeouts by Dunlap (CG, three hits, six strikeouts), stranded Morry at second.
“That was his first varsity start, not his first time pitching varsity this year, but his first start, he did a great job mixing it up and showed a lot of poise in his first time out there,” Hart said about his starter.
In the bottom of the second, the North bats got back to work, as Kyle Briere singled, stole second, and then came around to score on a hard-hit grounder to short by Brendan McHugh that Attleboro committed an error on. However, Eoin Kelleher (4.2 innings pitched, nine hits, four strikeouts) would strike out the next batter and strand McHugh on first.
Attleboro battled back from there, picking up a run in the top of the fourth, as Camden Fitzpatrick walked, stole second, Wilson walked, and on Fitzpatrick’s attempt to steal third, the throw hit the batter’s helmet and went out of play, which allowed Fitzpatrick score and moved Wilson to third. Wilson would then score on a double by Mason Houle, but Houle was stranded at second after Dunlap struck out the next batter to end the inning and leave North with a one-run lead.
The Rocketeers would get both runs back in the bottom of the fourth, as McHugh doubled home Nate MacKinnon from first after MacKinnon walked, and McHugh would come home on a sac fly from Penta. North Attleboro added another insurance run in the bottom of the fifth, as Robinson singled and stole second and Jake Palmer singled him home.
With a 7-3 lead in hand, North wasn’t done yet, as it tacked on four runs in the bottom of the sixth. After back-to-back singled by MacKinnon and McHugh to lead off the inning, Nick Raneri was hit by a pitch with one out and Robinson then singled home Joe Barrows (who ran for MacKinnon) and McHugh to extend the lead to 9-3.
Raneri scored on a passed ball, while Robinson scored on a throw to second to try to catch Watters stealing, who reached on a walk earlier in the inning. Kyle Bolger followed with a single, but Morry, in a relief appearance, was able to strike out the next batter to end the inning. Dunlap would get the first two batters he faced out in the top of the seventh, but Nick McMahon reached on an error but Dunlap was able to retire the next batter to give North an 11-3 win and finish the complete game.
Tuesday’s game was the final regular season game for both teams before playoff’s start.
“We got guys feeling good about themselves at the right time, and I’m interested to see what we can do,” Hart said about North Attleboro heading into the playoffs.
With the win, North finishes the regular season at 11-9. Attleboro closes out the regular season with an identical 11-9 record.