NEWTON, Mass. -- It was an old-fashioned pitchers duel Saturday at Newton North. Well, at least for a little while.
Entering the bottom of the sixth inning, Newton North’s Teddy Rodliff and Catholic Memorial’s Nathan Webber had racked up 9 and 8 strikeouts respectively. The only blemish on the scoreboard was one run Newton North manufactured back in the second inning.
That is, until Webber hit Tommy Joyce with a pitch to start the half inning. That started an avalanche of events that ended with Webber being relieved from the game after surrendering three more runs. Newton North was victorious 4-0.
After Joyce’s hit-by-pitch, his brother Alex came up next and doubled to right field to put runners on second and third with nobody out. The Catholic Memorial coach staff decided to intentionally walk Kevin Alexy to load the bases with still nobody out. Curtis Beatrice bunted back to Webber, but he had difficulty fielding the ball and only had time to make the play at first.
“We only had one hit up until that point, but we’d have 5-6 at-bats, just quality at-bats where we’d work the pitcher,” said Alex Joyce. “It was the third time around in the order and we saw him good. Our big bats haven’t been producing that well, our two, three, and four hitters. We’ve been able to get some production from the bottom of the lineup. Then everyone came through in that last inning so this was good for the team.
With runners on second and third, Mike Barbieri dropped a hit into left field, which allowed Alex to score on a play at the plate. The ball got away from the catcher and Alexy scored to make it 4-0. Barbieri advanced to third on the play.
“You can’t coach this, but we got timely hitting,” said Newton North coach Joe Siciliano. “That’s the second day in a row we got timely hitting.”
Conversely, Rodliff threw a complete game shutout. The lefty only threw 85 pitches in the game and struck out 10 total. He struck out at least one batter in every inning. He was so effective that only one base runner reached second base all game. That happened in the third inning when Rodliff walked the first batter and he advanced to second on a fielder’s choice. Rodliff came back and struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning unscathed.
“This game, out of any, I felt like my changeup, my curveball, and my fastball were all moving where I wanted them to be,” said Rodliff. “I was spotting it up pretty nice and I could get some velocity on it. Today I was definitely feeling all my pitches.”
Teddy ballgame: Rodliff attacks hitters with a throwing motion that is unconventional for the high school game: a left-handed three-quarter delivery. Most high school pitchers release the ball when it is almost parallel to the top of their head, but Rodliff lets it go closer to his shoulder. It is the pitching style that feels most comfortable to him and allows him to get enough rotation on his pitches that hitters can not pick up where the ball will break.
Saturday, the CM hitters had trouble dealing with the lefty. Other than Kevin Doody’s two hits, only two other hit balls beyond the infield. Both resulted in fly-ball outs.
“I seem to get kids off-balance,” said Rodliff. “They’re definitely not used to the arm slot, it comes in from a different angle so they might not be seeing it the way they would over the top. That might help. Definitely with the pitches I’m throwing and the way (Alex) Joyce spots up.”
He has figured out how to use tweak his approach to righties and lefties so they can not get a feel for the trajectory and the action of the pitch.
“He can release it at different times, like he throws it different to righties and lefties,” said Joyce. “With lefties, sometimes he’ll go more sidearm so it comes across the plate. With righties, sometimes he’ll go more over the top so it tails out a little more. He can do different things with his arm slot that definitely helps him out.”
Webber does well: CM’s Nathan Webber was no slouch on the mound Saturday. The hard-throwing senior gave the Newton North lineup all it could handle for five innings. The Tigers’ lineup manufactured a run in the second inning, but then was shut down for the next three. Webber struck out the side in both the fourth and fifth inning before North broke the game open in the sixth.
He was removed from the game after 5.1 innings after he allowed only three hits and struck out 8 batters. After getting a feel for the pitcher and also a little bit of luck, North added the three runs in the sixth to put the game away.
“When he got that first strike over, he was very tough,” said Siciliano. “If he missed it, we had a prayer. That’s why 9 innings is fun, because the guy sees the pitcher three or four times.”