By Jim Sullivan
---- — AMESBURY — In the midst of a revitalized season, the Amesbury baseball team took on its greatest test of the year so far in undefeated, defending Division 3 state champion North Reading (11-0).
The Indians (6-5) found out Saturday they still need some work as the Hornets struck hard and fast to blank Amesbury 18-0.
“We made it to the state championship last season with a total of eight extra-base hits all season: eight,” said North Reading coach Frank Carey. “We could have had eight, and we’re close to 20 on the season already. So we have evolved from a small-ball team to a team that can get extra-base hits when they have to.”
Zach Fitzgerald took to the mound for Amesbury against RJ Warnock, who would give up a walk to Adam Ivancic to start the bottom of the first. Fitzgerald then stole second before Mac Short was hit by a pitch. But Devlin Gobeil hit a liner straight to third baseman Tom Day in what would become an omen as to how the Indians’ day would go.
North Reading’s Alec Schefer started the top of the third inning with a single, then reached second on an error. Dennis Rollis bunted on next and then Warnock loaded the bases with another pitch-perfect bunt down the third base line. The Hornets scored their first run on a wild pitch before Keith Linnane drew a walk to reload the bases for cleanup batter Colby Maiola, who was hit by a pitch to score another run.
Ryan McAuliffe drew a walk in the next at-bat to drive in a run and Ryan Sanborn scored two more with a single down the middle. Shane Driscoll reached on a single to third next before Schefer plated the Hornets’ sixth run of the inning. Rollis knocked in another before the third inning’s bleeding stopped.
“I’ll go back to when the score was 0–0,” said Carey. “We had a guy on, we put down a good bunt, and we put down another forfeit bunt. Then we had the bases loaded, and once teams have to pull in the infield for us, we try to pound the ball down and just drive it through the infield. That was a very good inning, but it all started with the small-ball.”
Ivancic started the bottom of the frame with a single and moved over to second on a single from Tommy Connors. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch before Mac Short hit a liner straight to Driscoll to put the Indians away again.
The Hornets’ train kept rolling in the top of the fourth when Linnane started things off with a single, then stole second. Maiola walked next, and McAuliffe plated Linnane with a single before Ryan Sanborn drew a walk to load the bases again to chase Fitzgerald from the game.
Kyle Arseneau took to the mound for Amesbury and Driscoll welcomed him rudely with an RBI single before Sanborn came home on a wild pitch. Rollis cleared the bases with a double next and came home on a single from Day. One more run would score before the inning ended with a 14-0 North Reading advantage.
Before all was said and done, one more North Reading run crossed the plate in the top of the fifth and three more did in the sixth.
“This team has evolved from a team that played small-ball all last year with a .262 batting average,” said Carey. “Now we’re batting .360. When we have to do the small ball, we can do it. I’m very pleased with that.”
Indians coach Gene Burnham was unavailable for comment.