LAWRENCE — It might not have been the type of dominating performance Ryan Kuchar has regularly provided the past four months, but it proved more than enough for Newburyport’s American Legion title hopes.
In a showdown between two of the top aces and teams in District 8, Kuchar and Post 150 got the better of Joan Vargas and Lawrence in a 4-2 victory. With three regular-season games remaining, the win upped Newburyport’s lead atop the standing to three games over both Lawrence and idle Andover. Finishing in the top two spots assures a bye into the semifinals.
“We’re guaranteed a playoff spot and we’re guaranteed a first round bye,” said Newburyport coach Tim Southall, whose squad improved to 13-1. “Being first or second will be huge. We have a great pitching staff. We go five deep, and I don’t think anyone has the arms we have.”
One of those quality arms belongs to Kuchar, who struggled at times last night, especially early, allowing a first-inning run on three hits and a walk. The Pentucket grad finished with three strikeouts while allowing seven hits and walking five.
“That’s one of the toughest-hitting teams I’ve ever pitched against,” said Kuchar, who is bound for Division 3 Union College. “I just wasn’t hitting the spots.”
Post 150 crawled back into the lead with a three-run third. Singles by Cam Toohey, Colton Fontaine and Justin Chaisson set themselves up to score on a wild pitch and an error for a 3-1 lead.
Newburyport added an insurance run in the sixth on Justin Cashman’s double that scored Bobby Barry, who reached on one of Lawrence’s three errors.
Lawrence tightened the score with a sixth-inning run, but it was hurt throughout the game on the base paths. Two runners were thrown out trying to steal home and another was nailed at the plate on a great throw by right-fielder Barry in the fifth. In addition, Lawrence stranded six runners in scoring position.