WESTWOOD, Mass. -- Newton North is off to a fast start this season -- at the plate, on the mound, against foes both in and out of conference. It continued Thursday morning at Xaverian.
Ben Porter led off the bottom of the first with a double over Trevor McQuade’s head in centerfield. John Little sacrifice bunted down the first baseline to move Porter over, and suddenly North had a runner less than 90 feet from scoring and only one out. Tommy Joyce grounded out to short, which scored Porter from third, and North had a lead it would not relinquish. The Tigers went on to defeat the Hawks, 7-1.
North put two more on the board in the fourth courtesy of the middle of its lineup. Alex Joyce walked to start the bottom of the inning, followed by a Kevin Alexy triple to right center. Curtis Beatrice broke his bat on a short flair to right, but the ball dropped in for a hit and allowed Alexy to cross home to give North a 3-0 lead.
“I told our hitters that although it was a close game for a while, I thought our approach was good,” said Newton North coach Joe Siciliano. “I thought every batter battled, and I thought that was the difference. We finally got to them. Of course, in baseball, sometimes things fall in and we were very fortunate that that happened.”
The North lineup was able to do most of its damage the second time around on the experienced Paul Regan. Before the bottom of the fourth, the team huddled in front of its dugout to discuss what it had picked up from Regan’s delivery and pitch selection.
Regan was relieved from the game after five innings. He gave up six runs on 10 hits, with three strikeouts and a walk.
“The kids are good like that, they take hitting seriously,” said Siciliano.
Tommy and Alex Joyce singled to open the bottom of the fifth, putting runners on first and second. Alexy singled for the third North hit in a row, which created a play at the plate with Tommy Joyce and the catcher. The umpire ruled Tommy got around the tag and was safe, while Alex tried to advance from second to third behind him. The catcher overthrew third, sending the ball down the left field line. Alex scored and Alexy was able to reach third on the play.
Curtis Beatrice singled to plate Alexy and give North the 6-1 lead with two innings to go.
Dylan Sbordone breezed through the first five innings on the mound for Newton North, giving up no hits and only one walk during that span. Seeing how he retired the Xaverian lineup with ease, it was easy to think two innings ahead and the realistic chance he had of throwing a no-hitter on such a blustery day.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” he admitted after the game. “The no-hitter would have been nice, but...you know...it happens.”
Even when he got into potential trouble, his teammates bailed him out of it. Xaverian’s Andrew Elliot battled Sbordone for a nine-pitch at bat in the top of the fifth before eventually drawing a walk. He was able to get the next batter, Kevin Dolan, to hit a grounder to second. The North infield turned the 4-6-3 double play to get the runners off the base paths.
“Dylan has improved so much, you can’t say enough about him,” said Siciliano. “He’s pitching with purpose. Sometimes when pitchers throw balls, they don’t mean to. When he throws a ball, he means to throw a ball. It could be something like an outside fastball. He’s got command of two or three pitches, and he did a terrific job.”
He did not throw more than four pitches in an at-bat until the last batter of the fourth inning. He consistently kept the ball down and around the plate and was not afraid to pitch to contact. While this allowed Xaverian to put a number of balls in play, it also kept his velocity up and pitch count down heading into the later innings.
“I was just trying to stay around the plate, and if they hit it, just let the defense make the plays behind me,” he said. “I felt good going into the later innings because the first two or three innings everyone was swinging at basically one or two pitches they were thrown and the defense was making plays, so we were getting quick one-two-three innings.”
He finally gave up a hit in the sixth inning when McQuade hit a line drive into right-center for a double. The ball would have rolled further if Porter did not make a diving stop before it got past him. Noah Sorrento grounded out to first to get McQuade to third and AJ King singled to plate Xaverian’s only run of the game.
He pitched the full seven innings, giving up 1 run on two hits while striking out 6 and walking 2.
On the road (again): Thursday was supposed to be Newton North’s home opener, but it had to be moved because its new field, located behind the high school, was saturated from Wednesday’s rain. Therefore, Thursday’s game was moved to Xaverian High School’s turf field. The two teams kept the rules of play intact, with North serving as the home team and taking the field at the top of every inning.
Siciliano and his team hope to be playing games on its real home field in front of its home fans soon.