PAWTUCKET — Minutes after Cumberland High’s respectable but not outstanding 5-3 triumph over St. Raphael Academy on Monday afternoon, Clippers’ skipper Paul Murphy reacted to the pure facts – that the last four hitters in his lineup had assembled a collective 4-for-11 outing, good for a .364 average, four RBI and a run scored.
“Somebody had to do the job; if they hadn’t, we would’ve been in real trouble,” Murphy sighed while standing just outside his third-base dugout at Vets Park. “The guys at the top of the order have been around. They’ve seen more pitches because, naturally, they’re up more, and they can better decipher what (the opposing pitcher’s) tendencies are.
“I’d also say it’s a feather in those guys’ caps; they went up swinging,” he added of junior Dylan Boisclair (0-2); freshman Tyler Calabro (1-for-1, RBI, run); senior Eric Murray (0-for-2, sacrifice bunt); junior Pete Travers (1-for-2, RBI); sophomore Nate Robinson (0-for-1); and junior designated hitter Matt Bare (2-for-3, two RBI). “They wanted to produce and did.”
The performances didn’t outshine the one posted by Saints’ sophomore southpaw Bob Bracken. In his first-ever varsity start, he hurled a complete game, scattering eight hits, five runs (two earned) and two walks while fanning eight.
His opponent, senior fireballer Justin Patrick – the same guy who has signed a letter-of-intent to play baseball (on a scholarship) at the University of South Florida come August – also hurled a complete-game eight-hitter with two walks, but whiffed just seven while raising his spring mark to 2-1.
The big issue for the Saints on this day: Five errors, including four on overthrows.
“Bracken did a nice job hitting the corners; he threw three pitches – his fastball, curve and changeup – and he had great control of them all,” Murphy noted. “When we did hit the ball hard, they made some terrific plays in the field.”
As for his ace, Patrick, Murphy said only, “He battled out there. He threw the ball well, but his off-speed pitches, he didn’t throw a lot of them for strikes. His philosophy as a pitcher should be not to strike everyone out, but to force them to hit his pitches. That way, even if (batters) do put the ball in play, his defense can do the job behind him.
“I thought we were sluggish, especially with the bats,” he continued. “Maybe it had something to do with this being our first 11 o’clock (a.m.) game (due to April Vacation week). Maybe it was just a matter of us not being used to it.”
The Clippers, who improved to 4-1 in Division I-North, registered a run in undramatic fashion in the top of the first. Bracken walked senior leadoff hitter Ryan Harris, who took second on Greg Joubert’s ground single to left, third when senior Christian Spader hit into a 6-unassisted-3 double play and scored on senior Matt Billington’s high-fly single to the right-center gap.
SRA head coach Tom Sorrentine’s bunch immediately assembled a rally in the back half. Junior Zach Mitsmenn (1-for-2, two walks, run) reached on an infield single, stole second and went to third when backstop Billington’s throw sailed into center field and came home when junior Nick Karalekas drilled a hit to right-center.
Karalekas then robbed second and hustled in on senior Julian Diaz’ infield single.
Cumberland regained the lead at 3-2 in the top of the fourth, and the flurry started when Saints’ shortstop Karalekas fielded Billington’s grounder cleanly, but then air-mailed his throw to first. With Billington at second, Patrick roped a single to right to plate his batterymate, and Patrick later scored on Travers’ line-drive hit to left.
Amazingly, Bracken struck out the side that inning, but also allowed three hits.
The Saints knotted the score at 3-3 in the fourth, and the lone run came in interesting. Diaz opened with what seemed to be a single to right, but – just as the outfielder, Spader, went to field it – it hopped to his left and kept rolling. Diaz slid into third with a triple.
Mota followed with a line drive to left-center, one in which center fielder Travers dove to make a stellar catch, but it got by him and went for a long single. Diaz scored with ease.
Travers was slow to get up, and left the field holding his left wrist.
“When he dove, his thumb rolled under his glove hand; we won’t know his status until (Tuesday),” Murphy said.
Sophomore Nick Cesino sacrificed Mota to second for the first out, but Patrick got the next two batters on infield flyouts.
Cumberland notched another two in the sixth when Patrick reached on a leadoff, two-base infield miscue, took third when catcher Mota’s pickoff throw to second flew into center and scored on freshman pinch-hitter Tyler Calabro blooped a single to right.
Calabro hustled to second on Murray’s sacrifice bunt, third on pinch-batter Robinson’s groundout to first and raced in on Bare’s ground single just inside the third-base line.
“That was huge hit for Calabro, who’s only a freshman,” Murphy grinned. “He was on the Cumberland National team that went to the Little League New England Regional finals (in 2010). I know ‘Saar’ had his father when he played at Saints.”
When asked if Sorrentine remembered, he laughed, “Yeah, Mike Calabro played for me back in the ‘80s. What’s his kid’s name?’
He was told, “Tyler,” and ‘Saar’ responded with another chuckle, “That’s not the first time that’s happened to me.”
SRA, which fell to 1-4 overall and in I-North, manufactured a mini-flurry in the bottom of the seventh, when Vichroski ripped a lined single just inside third base, and – with two down – Mitsmenn walked and Veiga delivered a ground hit between first and second to load the bags.
Patrick, however, forced Karalekas to ground to second to end the game.
“I thought Bracken pitched great,” Sorrentine offered. “Those (Cumberland) guys can swing the bat, but he kept them off-balance with his breaking stuff, and they never really did tee off on him. We just didn’t play well in the field. I mean, five errors? Bracken had a terrific outing; he only had 84 pitches, but – again – it was a lack of defense.
“Patrick is a really good pitcher, but I didn’t think he was extremely sharp (on Monday). He pitched well, but he wasn’t really ‘on.’ Still, he pitched well enough to win, so you have to give him credit.”