CHELMSFORD, Mass. -– Chelmsford starting pitcher Tanner Houle tossed a complete game on Friday afternoon to pick up the win as Chelmsford (9-4) defeated Merrimack Valley Conference rival Lowell, 4-2, for their second victory over the Red Raiders this season and their fifth win in a row.
The Lions wasted little time getting on the board as they plated three first inning runs, sending seven batters to the plate in a 15-minute opening inning.
Chelmsford senior first baseman Thomas Murphy struck the biggest blow in the inning as the lefty clean-up hitter took a breaking ball the other way for a two-run double over the head of the left fielder. The RBI double plated Matt Rabbito and Michael DeDonato. Rabbito had previously raked a double off the left field rock wall that scored lead-off man Mason Trubey.
“I was down in the count so I was just trying to battle back,” said Murphy. “He left one over the plate so I was just trying to go the opposite way.”
The Lions would score their fourth run in the third inning as Russell Olive walked with the bases loaded to force DeDonato in for his second run scored of the game.
With a 4-0 lead Houle made quick work of the Red Raiders in the fourth inning as he did a great job of mixing up his pitches and keeping the Lowell hitters off balance all afternoon. The only trouble that Houle encountered on the day came in the fifth inning as Lowell mounted a rally behind a leadoff single from R.J. Noel and an RBI double from Joe Parisi that would lead to two runs in the inning.
“It feels real good as last year they got us pretty good both games,” recalled Houle. “To get them back this year makes me so happy.”
Houle also picked up the win out of the bullpen during the first meeting between the two teams on April 13. Chelmsford defeated Lowell 11-5 in that contest.
Momentum killer: The Red Raiders scored two runs in the fifth inning and were looking for more as they had runners on the corners with one out.
Rabbito would then come up with the game’s biggest play as the junior backstop threw out R.J. Gray trying to steal second base. The caught stealing halted a feverish Lowell rally and gave Chelmsford a key second out to help curb the Lowell comeback.
“Knowing I have him makes me so happy out there,” said Houle of his battery mate. “I can throw a slow curve and he can still beat them out there and if I throw it in the dirt he will knock it down.”
The Beauty of Ayotte: Ayotte Field in North Chelmsford is one of the classic fields in Eastern Massachusetts as it sports a short, sloped rock wall in left field that often draws the attention of batters. The neighborhood ballpark is set on the banks of Freeman Lake and is named after legendary long time Chelmsford coach Harry Ayotte, who passed away last year.
Friday afternoon was no different, as Rabbito pelted the rock wall on the fly, resulting in a first inning RBI double.
“The rocks are there and that ball that he hit could have bounced any direction,” said Chelmsford head coach Mike O’Keefe. “It is a unique field and we are happy that it is ours.”
Red Hot Lions: The Lions have now won five games in a row, and eight out of their last nine, as they head into the home stretch of their schedule.
“We are working on team chemistry as we go along,” explained Murphy. “Each game we seem to be getting better and I am excited to play the next couple of games.”
The Lions get back to action on Monday as they host Andover in another MVC Large battle. First pitch is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. at Ayotte.
“We are starting to understand who we are and what we do well,” O’Keefe said. “As long as we don’t beat ourselves it gives us an opportunity to do what we did today.”