CUMBERLAND — Cumberland High coach Paul Murphy attributes his team’s latest surge in the ultra-competitive Division I-North to its work at the plate
In Tuesday morning’s contest against Mount St. Charles Academy, Murphy’s crew didn’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.
“I just think we are starting to hit the ball better,” Murphy said. “Even though we didn’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 it’s just we are starting to get a little more experience. We are starting to hit the ball a lot better.”
Staring at a 5-2 deficit after three and a half innings, the Clippers chipped away at the Mounties’ 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.
“He did a great job,” said Murphy, about Billington. “That’s some clutch hitting right there at its best. Guys are on, with two outs, and he came through. That’s exactly what you need.”
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 Clippers’ 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.
“I can’t say enough about how well he pitched today,” Murphy remarked. “I just think he was getting ahead in the count early and then using all his pitches. It wasn’t anything magical. It was just the sense of throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count and being able to finish guys.”
“He did a great job and shut down any chance we had to get any insurance runs,” MSC head coach Tom Seaver said. “That allowed Cumberland to make its comeback.”
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 couldn’t produce any more runs, no thanks to an inning-ending double play by the Mounties off a hard grounder by junior Christian Spader. Mount’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 O’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.
“His shoulder was a little sore,” Murphy said. “That’s why I took him out of the game. He’s our ace. That’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. He’s a very good pitcher.”
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. Geffert’s low throw got by first baseman Ryan Simoneau, allowing Billington to be plated with the Clippers’ fifth run.
Billington’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.