By Jim Sullivan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Just warming up after a rough first week of the season for both teams, the Newburyport and Triton baseball squads collided for the first time this season at Pettingell Park yesterday. The Clippers (2-2) squeaked out the win on a suicide squeeze in the bottom of the seventh inning, taking down Triton, 4-3.
“We squeeze, we bunt,” said Clippers coach Steve Malenfant. “We knew coming into the game just how big a game this would be for Triton, and we knew how big of a game it is for us.”
Freshman Scott Webster took to the mound for Newburyport, facing off against sophomore Justin Cashman, and Cashman would get the Vikes’ first hit of the day in the top of the first with a single out to left. Cashman then grabbed second on an overthrow, but Webster got Nick Cornoni to ground out to third to end the threat.
Brian Fiascone had the Clippers’ first hit of the game in the bottom the first, a single to right, then grabbed second on an overthrow and third on a wild pitch. Colt Fontaine drew a walk and stole second then Fiascone grabbed Newburyport’s first run of the day on a passed ball. Connor Wile hit Fontaine in with a single to center in the next pitch to put Newburyport up by two.
“He had a slow start,” McCarthy said of Cashman. “But he’s a kid that, once he finds his groove, he’s tough to hit and that’s how he pitches.”
Cashman did become tough to hit in the bottom of the second inning, going 1-2-3 courtesy of a grounder and two strike outs, but faltered in the third when Fiascone reached on another single, promptly stole second and grabbed third on a wild pitch. Fontaine drew a walk next and Wile knocked in Fiascone with a sacrifice fly to deep center.
Adam Chatterton reached on a single for the Vikes in the fourth inning and moved over to third thanks to a single from Jack Germinara. Then smart base running by Chatterton grabbed Triton’s first run of the day on a ground out from Cote Wolcik.
Webster faltered again in the top of the fifth, hitting Nate Estabrook with a pitch to start the inning. Estabrook then stole second before Dmitri Hunt slapped a single out to center to send Estabrook to third before Hunt stole second. But Webster started throwing hard, striking out Cashman, Nick Cornoni and Chatterton to end the threat.
Triton would tie things up in the top of the sixth when Germinara hit a single then stole second before Wolcik had a single of his own. Germinara would then come home on a passed ball to put the Vikes within one. Brad Whitman tied things with a single out to right field. Webster was relieved by James Nutter once Nate Estabrook walked in the next at-bat and promptly got Hunt to hit into a double play.
The Vikes threatened mightily in the top of the seventh as Cashman led off with a single to left then stole second while Cornoni struck out. Nutter struck out Chatterton next before Germinara reached with a single that put Cashman at third. But Nutter got Wolcik to ground out to end the threat.
With the clouds and extra innings threatening, Clipper Chance Carpenter drew a lead-off walk then stole second and third to find himself in the position to attempt the suicide squeeze on an at-bat by Fiascone. The gambit paid off to send the Clippers home with a .500 record for the first time this season.
“It worked out well,” Malenfant said of the squeeze. “Chance was perfect for it. There’s a lot of pressure on a person in that situation and he took care of it. I’m proud he was involved in it and I’m proud that Brian was involved in it.”
“We had our chances but we didn’t take care of business,” said McCarthy. “That’s what we’ve been doing right now as a team. We put ourselves in holes and we have fought back. And we had our opportunities to jump out in front, and we didn’t take advantage of those opportunities. And if you can’t do that, you’re not going to win those big games.”
Malenfant took time after the game to praise both of his pitchers.
“(Webster) did real good job,” said Malenfant. “But we let them back in a little bit. Give them credit, they came back in. And when we get into a tight situation, we expect to do those mechanical things that get you a win.”