CUMBERLAND â€” Cumberland High coach Paul Murphy attributes his teamâ€™s latest surge in the ultra-competitive Division I-North to its work at the plate
In Tuesday morningâ€™s contest against Mount St. Charles Academy, Murphyâ€™s crew didnâ€™t quite get the double-digit hits like it did against Moses Brown and Smithfield last week. But the Clippers did get the key hits it needed to earn themselves a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over the Mounties at Tucker Field.
After starting the season with two straight losses in the division, including a 10-2 squashing by first-place Lincoln on April 8, Cumberland has now won fourth straight league games and remains in second in the standings at 4-2. The Mounties saw their two-game win streak halted and dropped to 2-4.
â€śI just think we are starting to hit the ball better,â€ť Murphy said. â€śEven though we didnâ€™t do a great job today of hitting the ball overall (seven hits), in other games, like against Moses Brown (a 13-4 win last Thursday) we had 15 hits. In the Smithfield game (a 6-5 victory this past Friday), we had 12 hits. I think itâ€™s just we are starting to get a little more experience. We are starting to hit the ball a lot better.â€ť
Staring at a 5-2 deficit after three and a half innings, the Clippers chipped away at the Mountiesâ€™ advantage by scoring twice in the bottom of the fourth, scored again in the fifth and then got their game-winner in the sixth when junior Matt Billington belted a two-out, RBI single.
â€śHe did a great job,â€ť said Murphy, about Billington. â€śThatâ€™s some clutch hitting right there at its best. Guys are on, with two outs, and he came through. Thatâ€™s exactly what you need.â€ť
The Clippers also got exactly when it needed from relief pitcher Hayden Namaka. With starting pitcher Justin Patrick battling a stiff shoulder, Namaka replaced the Clippersâ€™ junior ace in the top of the fifth with the Mounties leading by a score of 6-5.
The senior right-hander faced just 10 batters in his three innings of work, retiring the final eight.
â€śI canâ€™t say enough about how well he pitched today,â€ť Murphy remarked. â€śI just think he was getting ahead in the count early and then using all his pitches. It wasnâ€™t anything magical. It was just the sense of throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count and being able to finish guys.â€ť
â€śHe did a great job and shut down any chance we had to get any insurance runs,â€ť MSC head coach Tom Seaver said. â€śThat allowed Cumberland to make its comeback.â€ť
The Clippers took a 2-0 lead after the first two innings. Senior Kevin Dicomitis got things started in the first with a two-out double off MSC starter Collins Utterman. After Utterman walked Billington, senior Mike Lucena put the Clippers on the board with an RBI single to left-center. Cumberland scored again in the second with a run-scoring single by senior Matt Lazarus. But with one out and runners at second and third, the Clippers couldnâ€™t produce any more runs, no thanks to an inning-ending double play by the Mounties off a hard grounder by junior Christian Spader. Mountâ€™s third baseman Tyler Geffert scooped up the ball, tagged third for the force out and rifled the ball over to first to get Spader out by a step.
The Mounties, who were hitless the first two frames, manufactured four runs in the bottom of the third on five hits. Senior Dan Oâ€™Brien crushed a two-run double and senior teammates Tim Doyle and Trevor Plante also drove in a run with a pair of singles. The Mounties, who scored their fifth run in the fourth inning, benefitted from the off-speed pitches that Patrick tossed to ease the strain on his throwing arm.
â€śHis shoulder was a little sore,â€ť Murphy said. â€śThatâ€™s why I took him out of the game. Heâ€™s our ace. Thatâ€™s why I put him out, and they did a good job hitting him. They put together some runs. They scored five runs against him. I give them credit for that. Heâ€™s a very good pitcher.â€ť
The Clippers scored twice in the fourth inning with No. 9 hitter Mike Kinch (2-for-3) banging a two-out RBI double to centerfield. He was followed by a run-scoring single from Lazarus. Cumberland tied the score at 5 in the fifth, benefitting from a throwing error. Billington led off the frame with a single. After a pair of deep pop-outs by Lucena and Patrick, designated hitter Greg Joubert hit a grounder to Geffert at third. Geffertâ€™s low throw got by first baseman Ryan Simoneau, allowing Billington to be plated with the Clippersâ€™ fifth run.
Billingtonâ€™s heroics were set up in the sixth with Spader drawing a one-out walk off relief pitcher Matt LaButti. After a single by Dicomitis, Billington cracked a 2-1 pitch to center to score the winning run.
The Clippers will try and add to their early-season win streak on Thursday when they play host to St. Raphael Academy. Mount welcomes Moses Brown to its home field.