NORWOOD, Mass. –- Norwood’s one-run loss to archrival Walpole (16-2) on April 26 left Kenny Michael with a bad taste in his mouth. Under the lights at Balch Elementary School on Monday night, he was a man on a mission—driving in both of Norwood’s (14-4) runs and pitching a complete game four-hitter to carry the Mustangs to a 2-1 victory in front of a packed crowd.
Michael doubled in the top of the first inning to bring Rourke Flynn around to score. In the fourth inning, he smashed a home run over the fence in left-center field. Norwood didn’t score another run the rest of the game, and they didn’t need it—Michael finished the job with his performance on the mound, totaling 11 strikeouts.
“Last time we were in Walpole they got me. I was looking for redemption tonight,” Michael said.
Walpole lefthander Mike Gaughan got the start on the mound for the Rebels, pitching eight innings with 11 K’s of his own.
"Two great pitchers, Gaughan is top in our league, as is Kenny," Norwood coach Kevin Igoe said. "[It was] two of the best teams battling it out. Good Baseball, good defense--we’re pretty happy."
Igoe praised his senior star after the game. Michael, who will play ball at Division 2 power Southern New Hampshire University starting this coming fall, played his best baseball in front of a big hometown crowd and under bright lights. Michael didn’t give up a hit until the sixth inning -- an inning when he gave up two hits and walked a batter without giving up a run.
"This is his third year of varsity--his heartbeat stays level," Igoe said of Michael. "He’s everything to us: shortstop, on the mound, you saw him hit that ball into the net--we go as he goes."
Michael saw a similar jam in the eighth inning, where one Walpole run crossed the plate. Johnny Adams stole second base and advanced to third after a base he hit a single that drove in Bobby Ivatts. Adams never had a chance to score though—Michael recorded three outs in order to get out of the jam.
"I was just trying to come out with everything I had," Michael said. "I wasn’t trying to pick corners, although I did sometimes tonight pretty well. I wasn’t trying to go around anyone...I was just trying to go in at everyone in the zone. Fortunately for me that didn’t get a lot of solid pieces off my pitches—a lot of strikes and I’m very happy with how I performed on the mound."
Added Walpole coach Bill Tompkins, "Kenny Michael was the star of the game. He was a bulldog on the mound and he was tough with men on base."
Gaughan, who will attend a Division 2 powerhouse as well at Rollins College (Fla.), had a near-flawless pitching performance of his own—throwing three pitches consistently for strikes throughout the game.
"He’s a good frickin’ pitcher," Michael said of his counterpart. "His curve down and in to a righty is just deadly."
Norwood is playing their best baseball at the right time---with the tournament just around the corner. Having won nine of their last ten games, the Mustangs have shown they should be considered a serious contender going forward. Their last two losses -- 3-2 to Silver Lake on May 11th, and the previously mentioned 11-10 loss to Walpole -- have come at the hands of two of the state’s best teams.
"We break [the season] out into four quarters...we try to get that wheel rolling," Igoe said. "We’ve got a tough game Wednesday against Newton North and then Xaverian’s coming in Saturday. We do that purposely so we’re battle-tested. Believe me we can beat anybody, or we can lose to anybody."
Tompkins said he cherished the electric environment of the game, and best summed up the always-thrilling Walpole/Norwood baseball rivalry:
"I’d rather play under the lights so that the league and all the people can see the Walpole-Norwood game," he said. "Usually it’s the best game of the year...you saw one hell of a game tonight."