Boston High School: Brian Christian

Recap: Nauset 3-4, No. 13 Plymouth North 2-2

May, 11, 2013
5/11/13
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ORLEANS, Mass. -- If there was ambiguity before, the facts are now crystal clear: the Nauset Warriors have officially entered uncharted waters in the Atlantic Coast League.

The Warriors (15-2, 9-2) came into their doubleheader with juggernaut Plymouth North this afternoon at Eldredge Park having never beaten the Blue Eagles under coach Lou Elia. Not only did they end up sweeping North, 3-2 and 4-2, to put themselves in a tie for first place with the Eagles (11-4, 8-2) -- they have also put themselves in position to make history. If they win their final league game on Monday, against Falmouth, they will clinch themselves at least a share of the ACL title for the first time in school history.

"This program's come quite a long way. We're all happy about it," Elia said.

[+] EnlargeColin Ridley
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.com Left fielder Colin Ridley had 3 RBIs out of the ninth spot to lead Nauset to a two-game sweep of Plymouth North.
North now has to win out in its final two games to stay in the hunt and keep a share of the ACL title, starting Wednesday against archrival Plymouth South followed by a May 21 battle with Marshfield.

"It was just their day," North head coach Dwayne Follette said. "Now, we're going to have to see what kind of character we've got."

Down 2-0 early in the first game, Nauset plated three runs in the bottom of the third to take the lead. Colin Ridley plated the first of his three RBI of the afternoon out of the nine hole to bring across the first run, then senior Nick Taber smacked a single for the go-ahead run.

That was the Warriors' final hit of the first game, only reaching base twice more on an error and a fielder's choice. But the defense behind starting righthander Ray Rowell was solid, stranding six runners to support the lefty's nine-strikeout, eight-hit effort.

North head coach Dwayne Follette, was left wondering what could have been after watching his team load up the bases in the top of the seventh with one out. Facing a 1-2 count, cleanup hitter Jake Prifti was hit on the knee and initially appeared to have been awarded first base, which would have brought home Brendan Beane for the tying run. The ruling instead was a called third strike, after it was determined Prifti had brought the barrel of his bat across the zone enough to merit a swing.

Follette was furious at the call, marching all the way into the infield grass to loudly voice his protest for several minutes.

"You can quote this, that is one of the worst calls I've ever seen," Follette said. "You got a hit batter in the knee, and the umpires just botched it. Listen, they [Nauset] deserved to win, I'm not taking anything away from them. [But that was a] horrible call in the first game."

There was no controversy in the second game, however, as Taber went the full seven on the hill and allowed just two hits.

North once again was once again active early at the plate, scoring two runs in the first inning on a two-run single to center from Prifti to tie the game at 2-2. But the Eagles managed just one hit the rest of the way, a base hit by Ryan Moskos in the bottom of the fifth.

The Warriors went ahead in the top of the fifth on a bloop single from Ridley, dropping in shallow right to score Will Shackleford. Ridley gave them the insurance in the top of the seventh with a base hit that scored Rowell from second.

"Colin's coming up big with us," Elia said. "He might be at the bottom of the order, but he's getting his pitches, he's being patient, and is able to come through."

High marks for aces: Both Elia and Follette came away pleased with the performances of their starters.

The hard-throwing lefty Rowell pounded the zone with a bevy of fastballs in the first game, and after some trouble in the first two innings he settled nicely, getting himself out of jams with runners in scoring position in three of the final four innings.

Taber has tweaked his game since last spring, developing a cutter over the offseason to go along with a changeup and a sharp curveball. In dancing the ball around the plate, Taber kept his pitches low in the zone to stay ahead of the North hitters.

"They were locating, just locating," Elia said. "Nick has been with me for four years, he's one of only guys that's been in the varsity program for four years. He's got really good control, and he's got a couple of different pitches, and he's able to locate. So, he makes the most out of his pitches. He doesn't walk many people at all. He's got command of his pitches, and that's what's important."

Follette was pleased with the performance from junior righthander Kenny Drew, who struck out seven and scattered four hits on 72 pitches, to go along with the three earned runs. With staff ace Brian Christian unable to go today, Follette tapped freshman reliever Kyle Mann for his first varsity start in game two. The youngster demonstrates poise and high velocity in spite of his age, but did run into some trouble, allowing eight hits.

"I thought Kenny Drew, in the first game, pitched an incredible game," Follette said. "He didn't deserve that fate...We're pitching good enough to win, we're just not hitting enough. It's unfortunate. He pounded the zone."

Turning up the aggression: Over the last two seasons, the Eagles have been held in high regard for their ambitious approach to the basepath, compensating for a deficit in hitting with a blend of high-risk baserunning and fielding tactics playfully dubbed "Dwayne Ball" by their Plymouth brethren for its uniqueness.

In the second inning of game one, they executed a vintage "Dwayne Ball" staple. Executing a double steal, freshman Joe Walsh was caught in a rundown on the basepaths just long enough for Derek Salvucci to come screaming home for the initial 1-0 lead.

In the first inning of game two, the Eagles stole four bags, including two from Cory Boudreau, to help manufacture two runs.

North's leadoff hitter, Ryan Moskos stole two bags on the day to bring his season total to 26, which is eight more than the entire Nauset team attained a season ago. So far this year, however, the Warriors have recorded 60 steals, including two today.

What prompted the more dramatic approach in 2013?

"We've been running hard. We look for our opportunities, and I've got a pretty quick team one through nine," Elia said. "I've got a very young team, only two seniors, and the kids I've got coming up are pretty fast. We practice it, we practice running bases every day. We practice reading the pitches, knowing when to go, picking and choosing our battles. They've become very good at that, knowing when to be aggressive."

In developing that aggression, seeing has been believing. Muscle memory is the M.O. in Nauset practices, repeatedly practicing drills that have them envisioning those first-to-third, second-to-third, passed-ball scenarios.

"We do a lot of visualization," Elia said. "We've done a lot of mental preparation for games right now. They're goal-oriented. They don't go by expectations, they go by goals, and I think that's helped them out quite a bit this year."

Recap: Plymouth North 9, No. 23 Auburn 4

May, 25, 2012
5/25/12
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AUBURN, Mass. -- By its own admittance, Plymouth North is not a team stockpiled with bashers up and down the lineup -- and Eagles coach Dwayne Follette will be the first one to tell you that.

What Plymouth North has reverted back to is a combination of small ball, aggressive baserunning and solid defense to register wins. All were put on display tonight as the defending Division 2 state champion Eagles scored seven runs in the sixth inning to rally back for a 9-4 non-league victory over Auburn.

“All year we have had a good pitcher on the mound and we just battle,” said Follette, whose club improves to 13-6. “Today we executed small ball which was great. We’re not crushing the ball and we’re not a great hitting team. We are solid and found a way to win tonight by laying down bunts, executing a squeeze and we were very aggressive on the base paths. We're not afraid of any situation that comes our way.

"This was a big game for us and a big game for them. We like playing each other because we both are looking to judge to see where we are at. We know we are going to have to play this style of baseball in the postseason tournament to be effective.”

With the loss, the Rockets (16-4) saw their five game win streak snapped. But through five innings, they held a 4-2 lead as starting pitcher Connor Fuller was doing an admirable job keeping the Eagles offense in check.

However, with his pitch count continuing to rise (115 pitches total), the senior lefty began to lose steam in the sixth. Fuller lasted 5-1/3 innings, allowing five hits while striking out nine. The Eagles, who were having problems catching up to Fuller’s fastball early, changed their strategy later on as they tried to force Fuller into delivering more pitches to the plate and worked executed the little things that win games.

In the decisive sixth, Plymouth North opened by putting two on with one out. Jaime Delano bounced a dribbler down the third base line for a single. On the play, in his attempt to throw out Delano, Auburn third baseman Zack Tower threw wildly to first as the ball deflected off of first baseman Mykal Diaz. Pinch runner Ben Waltuch would score on the play, coming around from second base to make it a 4-3 game. Tyler Lamonda came on in relief of Fuller.

But with runners on second and third, Pat Horgan delivered a two-run single up the middle to put the Eagles in front to stay. As it turned out, Plymouth North was just getting started.

A walk to Brian Christian put two more runners on. Leadoff batter Cody Homes then dropped down a bunt for a single. Horgan, standing on second at the time, never stopped running on the play and would score the Eagles’ sixth run. Following a steal of second by Holmes and a walk to Jamie Dougherty, Plymouth North loaded the bases.

Connor Follette, who had struck out his previous three trips to the plate, was given the sign for a squeeze. The senior executed it perfectly to score another run for the Eagles. Before this inning finally came to a close, junior David Murphy singled to left plating two more and put Plymouth North ahead by five.

“We hadn’t played a team that has put the pressure on us the way they did,” Auburn coach Eric Swedberg said. “I blame myself a little bit. When you have a senior captain you let his pitch count go to 115 which is a little high. I should have put my emotions aside but I didn't. When Connor started that sixth inning I didn’t think I was going to need anyone else. He started good but I don’t know what happened thereafter.”

Eagles senior pitcher Vinny Tavernelli, albeit not overpowering, used a mix of fastballs and a looping curve to keep the Rocket hitters off-balance. Tavernelli lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up 7 hits before Holmes came on to shut the door the rest of the way.

These two clubs are no strangers to one another. In 2008 and 2009 they met in the Division 2 state finals. Plymouth North captured the title in 2008 while the Rockets returned the favor the following year. Since then, both teams have scheduled a regular season meeting each year and that trend is expected to continue come next season.

The Eagles jumped on Fuller for a pair of runs in the opening frame. Murphy (2 hits, 3 RBI) singled in the team's first run. Moments later, with Dougherty, who had walked, on third and Murphy on first, Follette called for a double steal which worked to perfection as Dougherty slid home to make it 2-0.

But in the bottom of the inning, Auburn answered back. Tyler Desjardins reached on a Tavernelli throwing error on a comebacker and Mike Vaitkunas singled. That set the stage for Diaz, who blasted a curve deep over the left field fence for a three-run homer putting the Rockets in front 3-2. Auburn added a solo run in the fifth on a RBI single by Tower. But the two run cushion the Rockets enjoyed would be brief as the Eagle offense exploded one inning later.

“We came out on top with a good comeback victory,” Murphy said. “We played well all-around. We came off the bus fired up to play this team because we knew how good they were. Vinny did a nice job and pitched great for us. Even when we were down we still felt comfortable and started to get the pitches we wanted to see. We were able to take advantage of what they gave us to earn this win.”

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