By Jim Sullivan
---- — NEWBURYPORT – After hovering around .500 all season, the Newburyport baseball team pushed to two games over .500 once Saturday just as the team began its final quarter of the season.
Senior co-captain Ryan Short broke up Hamilton-Wenham pitcher Jack Clay’s no-hitter in the bottom of the sixth inning to defeat the Generals, 1-0.
“Today was a great team win,” Short said. “We came up big when we needed to. That sixth inning was huge.”
Newburyport right-handed pitcher Colby Morris took the mound and saw no base runners in the top of the first two innings, but unfortunately for the Clippers (9-7), Clay was just starting to spin his web, doing the same in the bottom of the frames to keep things scoreless.
Morris made the first mistake of the day in the top of the third, letting Pete Duval on with a one-out single. But a 5-3 double play would send the Clippers back to the plate where Clay made quick work in his half with only six pitches.
Brett Harrington started the fourth inning with a walk for the Generals (6-10), but was gunned down stealing second by Port catcher Jake Barlow. Drew Gallant followed that up with a single up the middle, and Ben MacDonald drew a walk to put a pair on with one out. But Morris would get Austen Michel to strike out then got Nick Tufts to slap a come-backer to him to end the threat.
The Clippers sent the top of the order to the plate in the bottom of the fourth, and they went down in a row as Hamilton’s Brian Nicoll led off the fifth inning with a single, then moved to second on a passed ball. Morris got Matt Andre looking next then got Duvall to pop out and Clay to strike out swinging to keep things scoreless.
The Clippers remained hitless in the bottom of the fifth, putting the pressure back on Morris, who allowed a pair of base runners in the top of the sixth but would surrender no runs.
Short ended Clay’s good mood in the bottom of the sixth with a single past shortstop and junior Ryan Furlong did the exact same thing in the next at-bat. James Nutter laid down a nice bunt on the next pitch to move the runners into scoring position, then Colt Fontaine knocked in Short with a single that dropped between first and right field to give Newburyport all the runs it would need.
“Ryan breaking up the no-hitter (was big),” said Clippers coach Steve Malenfant. “We were hitting the ball, but we were hitting them right at people. But his hit was key. He stayed on the ball, and he’s been doing that for the last four games now. There’s more power to us because of him.”
“I came up big at a big time,” said Short. “Coach told us we needed the run. So I just took the same mind set I always have, be aggressive. I guess, that’s all.”
The Generals didn’t go quietly in the seventh however as Nicoll launched a double to right field, then moved to third on a single from Andre, who took second on a passed ball to put both runners in scoring position with no outs. But Duval popped up to second next before Clay struck out swinging, and Harrington popped out to left field to give Morris the hard-fought shutout.
“He was on today,” Generals coach Reggie Maidment said of Clay, a junior. “He had good stuff. That first hit he gave up was a good piece of hitting. It was a good pitch, down and away, and the kid stayed on it and drove into left field. I mean, what are you going to do?”
Now at 9-7 with four games to go in the regular season, Malenfant is simply taking things one game at a time.
“It was a huge game,” said Malenfant. “These three games, (Triton) the other day, this one and Pentucket (on Tuesday) is a huge game for us too. It’s another rivalry game.”