DORCHESTER, Mass. -- With a number of quality arms graduated from last year's squad, BC High's No. 1 preseason ranking in ESPN Boston's statewide poll is largely predicated on the number of live bats returning to the lineup. But if the performance this morning by senior righthander Johnny Arens is any indicator of the staff's quality, the Eagles might be OK in that department too.
Arens, a Milton resident, threw just four innings with the varsity last year. It wasn't a perfect outing for him, but he threw mostly fastballs, retiring the first 12 batters in succession -- including the first six all by way of fly-out -- en routed to a one-hitter in five innings of work. He fanned four batters and walked three, and managed to get out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the top of the fifth inning to preserve a 2-0 lead.
After that, senior second baseman Chuckie Connors put on the finishing touches of what was a 5-1 win, lining a frozen rope to centerfield in the bottom of the sixth for a two-run single, the final runs of the game.
"I don't think he walked anybody until the fifth," Eagles head coach Norm Walsh said of Arens. "When I talked to him the other day, I said 'Don't walk anybody, and we'll be in good shape', because overall we're going to play good defense. So I was very pleased with that for him. He needed a good start."
"It felt good," Arens said softly. "I was a little off, but the defense definitely got it done."
The operative word there is defense. The Eagles (2-0) boast one of the state's best middle infields, and the leather was on display in the middle innings.
Arens walked the first two batters of the top of the fifth and then -- working from the stretch -- surrendered a Mason Trubey line drive single to center to load up the bases with no outs. Walsh sense discomfort from his starting pitcher working from the windup, instructed him to go back to the wind-up, and the results were much more favorable. Arens rung up Jake Kelley swinging, then Connor Barry hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and preserve the lead over the Lions (1-1).
Battling for Bases: The bottom of the fourth was a good demonstration in run production for the Eagles.
Up 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, BC High's Chris Donovan manufactured a run with the benefit of two throwing errors by Chelmsford on pickoffs. After the first pickoff error that sent Donovan to second, Walsh called for a timeout, went out to meet Donovan and told him to beware of a wheel play the Lions might run.
After taking another bag on a pickoff error, he was sent home by a Ryan Tufts sacrifice fly to left field. Tufts initially went down 0-2 in the count to righty Tanner Houle, but battled back to a full count, fouling off two pitches before getting under a 3-2 curveball to complete the eight-pitch at bat
"I went up there taking first strike, and then I went behind," Tufts said. "I knew [with] a two-strike approach, you just try to protect and hit the ball into play."
Running on Rabbito: Chelmsford junior catcher Matt Rabbito has one of the best arms from behind the plate in the Merrimack Valley Conference, but the Eagles were not afraid to test it. They made three attempts to steal second, finding success twice.
"You don't run on the catcher -- you run on the pitchers," Walsh said. "We were looking for certain things in certain situations from pitchers, rather than so much for the catcher. Obviously if he can't throw, then yes, but we knew he could throw. So we're keying much more off the pitchers than we are off the catcher, and then count situation and you know, you're looking for off-speed, stuff like that to run on."
Hill hurt: Chelmsford third baseman Derek Hill left the game in the third inning with a knee injury, and was replaced by Barry. Head coach Mike O'Keefe didn't yet know the extent of the injury, or timetable, after the game.
"It looks like he twisted his knee, seemed pretty stiff, so we'll re-evaluate that when we get back," O'Keefe said. "Hopefully he's going to be OK. I saw something was wrong. I should have called a timeout and let the guy know I wasn't realy going to see my pitcher, I knew something was wrong with him. But hopefully he'll be fine."