HUDSON, Mass. -- A year ago at this time Jack Sarnoski wasn’t even playing baseball. Having undergone reconstructive shoulder surgery, the Nashoba Regional senior had to forgo his junior season in order to rehab.
Sarnoski is now back with the Chieftains this year and his teammates are thankful for that. On Thursday night, in a pivotal Mid-Wach B Divisional showdown against rival Hudson at Riverside Park, Sarnoski came up huge by going 3-for-3 at the plate, including a decisive two-run double in the fourth inning that gave Nashoba a hard-fought 2-0 victory.
The Chieftains improve to 15-2 and, with the win, gives them the division title with a mark of 9-0.
“All year long these guys have been battling," Nashoba head coach Chuck Schoolcraft said. “This is a special group. I love coming to practice and to games every day because these guys truly make it fun. I am so lucky to have such a great group of kids and great coaching staff here."
With both Chieftains ace Drew Foster and Hawks lefty Austin Bruneau matching zeros on the scoreboard over the first three frames, it was no secret that runs would be at a premium on this warm evening.
In the Nashoba fourth, the offense finally began to click. Bruneau (CG, 7 hits, 3 Ks) opened the inning by walking Kevin Connelly and surrendering a bunt single to Nick Campana. After a wild pitch advanced both runners, Bruneau settled down by retiring the next two Chieftain batters. Looking to tightrope his way out of trouble, Bruneau threw a 0-1 cutter to Sarnoski that stayed up in the zone. The right-handed batter didn’t hesitate as he roped a double to left, plating Connelly and Campana.
“It really felt good to get that hit,” said Sarnoski, who quarterbacked the Chieftains to a Division 2 Central Mass. Super Bowl last December, and will play football next season at Bentley University. “I have been struggling a little at the plate this year but the support I have received from all of my teammates is what did it tonight.
"The way this team has been working together this whole year you couldn’t ask for a better group to do it with. Our first goal was to win the division. Our second goal is to win districts and our third goal is winning the (Division 1) state championship.”
While Sarnoski was working his magic at the plate, Foster was staging his own on the mound. The senior, now 5-0 with a 0.00 ERA, allowed six hits in his seven innings of work and struck out four. Hudson (13-4, 7-2 in Mid-Wach B) walked away from this one knowing it had its chances to inflict some damage. In their half of the fifth, the Hawks stranded a pair of base runners.
The next inning they loaded the bases with only one out. But Foster was able to strike out James Adams and get Eric Davis to ground out to come away unscathed.
“We came here to do a job and we got it done,” said Foster, also an exceptional hockey player who will play for Ohio University next winter. “It was awesome to win this. We’re going to live with this win tonight and tomorrow we will set our goals for the district tournament. This was just one step tonight. We’ve got to keep moving forward.”
Nashoba put up a mild threat in the top of the second after putting two runners on with two out. But Bruneau managed to punch out Nick Borsari and keep the game scoreless. After retiring the Chieftains in order in the third, Bruneau made his only mistake of the night to Sarnoski in the fourth which proved to be the difference-maker.
“We’ve set very high goals this season,” Hawks coach Tim Reinhardt said. “We’re not apologetic for that at all. We didn’t get the league title. It would’ve been nice but its disappointing. Our kids played very well tonight and I can’t say enough about Austin. I’m disappointing that we couldn’t have gotten a win for his effort tonight. When we had the bases loaded in the sixth and didn’t score that was tough to swallow.
"When you get the bases loaded with just one out you hope to at least get one run across and give yourself a little bit better of a shot going into the seventh. But give Foster credit. He made some really good pitches and got out of it. We saw a lot of good pitching tonight from both sides.”