By Mac Cerullo
---- — LYNN — The Pentucket baseball team’s state tournament run came to an abrupt end yesterday afternoon after the Sachems were no hit by Hamilton-Wenham’s Austen Michel.
The Generals’ ace was dominant from the first pitch, striking out five of the first six batters he faced before ultimately finishing with 15 strikeouts on the day.
The Sachems more or less shut down the Generals’ lineup too, but a couple of key errors and well-timed hits gave the Generals all the offense they’d need to claim the 3-0 victory and a trip to the Division III North Finals.
“Their kid pitched an excellent game and we made mistakes at the wrong time,” said Pentucket coach Tom L’Italien. “They deserved the game — they played better than we did.”
The first half of the game was a power-pitching clinic, as Michel and Pentucket starter Bobby Barry went back and forth striking out the opposing team’s batters. In the first two innings alone, Michel and Barry combined for 11 strikeouts, and both teams would carry no-hitters into the fifth inning before Hamilton-Wenham’s Ian Dickey finally broke through with a single to center.
The Generals actually took a 1-0 lead before then in the bottom of the third after Generals senior Brett Harring walked, advanced to third on an error by Barry and then came around to score on a passed ball.
Pat Beaton came on in relief for Barry shortly after that, and Barry finished with the unusual line of 3.2 innings pitched, one run, no hits, four walks and seven strikeouts.
Though Pentucket couldn’t get any offense going, the Sachems did have a few chances to put some runs on the board. In the first inning, DJ Englke hit a towering fly ball to left field that would have easily been a home run had it not been foul.
Then in the top of the fifth, right fielder John Sirios was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and then stole second to get into scoring position with no outs. Michel responded by striking out the next three Pentucket batters to get out of the inning unscathed.
Pentucket had a number of great defensive plays to keep Hamilton-Wenham off the board too. Bobby Hallowell in particular had a great stretch where he threw out back-to-back Generals trying to steal second in the bottom of the third.
The Generals did pick up two more runs in the bottom of the sixth after senior captain Henry Eagar drove in Harring on a base hit, and then Harrison O’Brien came around a few batters later on a bases-loaded error to give the Generals a 3-0 lead.
Down three but with the heart of the order due up in the inning, Pentucket dispensed with traditional no-hitter etiquette and attempted to bunt to lead off the seventh inning. DJ Englke put down a perfect bunt and reached first after the third baseman fumbled the ball for an error.
“I didn’t even realize he had a no hitter going; honestly, we don’t give a crap about no hitters, we’re trying to get on base,” L’Italien said after the game. “DJ is a great bunter, he found a way to get on, and we felt like if we could get [Ryan] Kuchar on, Sirios could hit a home run.”
The plan ultimately didn’t work out, as Michel struck out Kuchar, Sirios and Dylan Wright in quick succession to end the game and punch his team’s ticket to the regional finals.
“It’s an accomplishment, but we expect Austen to be that good every day,” said Hamilton-Wenham coach Reggie Maidment of his pitcher’s performance. “Whether it’s a no hitter, that depends on the defense and getting good calls here and there, so the no-hitter part no, but we expect Austen to come out and dominate teams.”
With the loss, Pentucket will finish the season 15-9, while Hamilton-Wenham improves to 16-7 and will face either North Reading or Austin Prep in the regional finals. L’Italien said that while nobody wants to see their season end in such a disappointing fashion, he’s proud of his players and he’s confident that when they look back, they’ll be proud of the season they had.
“I had as much fun coaching this team as any team that I’ve coached,” L’Italien said. “They’re a joy to be around, they worked their butts off every day, they’re great teammates, they represented the program the right way, and when the dust settles they’re going to look back and realize that this was an awesome year.”
Division III North Semifinals
Hamilton-Wenham - 3
Pentucket - 0