By Tim Lima
---- — NEWBURYPORT — The Clippers and the Hornets of North Reading were notched at two runs apiece at the end of nine innings, delaying the outcome of the season opener to a future date.
It hasn’t been easy to start the season. Originally scheduled for Saturday morning at Newburyport’s William B. Pettingell Park, the game was moved to North Reading because of a weather-battered field. However, because of Saturday morning’s rain, the game was rescheduled to yesterday, again at Newburyport.
And while the game was indeed played on a cold and windy afternoon, it fell short of reaching a verdict.
“What we do is continue from this spot,” said Newburyport head coach Steve Malenfant. “It came down to each of us making a mistake, but at the same time, you saw some gritty pitching and some key hits.”
Attacking early, Newburyport’s Chance Carpenter and Caleb Stott both reached base safely. Two outs later, Carpenter stole third and Stott took second, which set up for a Ryan Furlong single to score two runs and give the Clippers an early lead.
“We were able to put pressure on (North Reading) early, and when we did, we were more effective as a team,” Malenfant said.
Taking the mound for the opener was James Nutter, who allowed just two earned runs over seven innings pitched.
“James didn’t throw a ton of pitches,” Malenfant said. “I think he had a quality start. He kept the ball down on the most part, and got into a little trouble with the two balls he left up. He started like he finished off last year, when he had a great game against Beverly and was outstanding. He is one of our leaders, and I’m glad the track team doesn’t have him.”
While a low-scoring affair, it wasn’t due to lack of offensive production. While offensive production was prevalent, so too were defensive plays. Without diving plays in left field by Leighton Paradis or a quick glove and strong arm of Newburyport third baseman Caleb Stott, the game likely would have been far different.
“(Stott) had big plays at third and North Reading’s second baseman had a great high school play which would have been the difference in the game,” Malenfant said. “We would have scored a run on that if it got through, but it didn’t. That’s the way the game is.”
With runners on second and third and nobody out, North Reading second baseman Shane Driscoll dove for a strong line drive. Making the catch, he flipped the ball backward to second base to record the double play and keep Newburyport from scoring.
One of the best opportunities the Clippers had came in the bottom of the ninth inning, as Travis O’Brien got on base with a single. Tom Isabel would then send a line drive into the outfield. O’Brien rounded second heading for third but was called out to end the game’s regulation.
“There were tight calls and tough calls, but that happens,” Malenfant said.
The two teams will look to settle the score and finally have an outcome within the next few days, weather permitting, of course.