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Newburyport's Kyle LeBlanc, left, gets a high-five from teammate Garrett Boyd, center, after scoring the tying run in yesterday's home opener against Ipswich at Newburyport's Lower Field. The Clippers eventually defeated Ipswich, 8-2. Also pictured is Ipswich catcher Chris Tolios, right.

The Newburyport baseball team has captured 18 Cape Ann League titles in 35 years — not by mourning the loss of graduating seniors, not by quitting whenever they trail by two runs and not by being content whenever they post a single victory.

The Clippers opened their 2007 season yesterday with an 8-2 victory over Ipswich at Newburyport’s Lower Field — effectively sending notice to all CAL up-and-comers: The title, as always, must go through Newburyport.

Ipswich figured to test that theory after winning the Cape Ann League Small championship last season. The Tigers posted a record of 16-5 to Newburyport’s 17-4, and Ipswich actually boasted the better record over the last seven regular season games (Ipswich: 7-0; Newburyport: 5-2) .

Paired with the fact that Newburyport lost its three most important players — Joe Pace, Brenden Russell and Jared Notargiacomo — from last year’s team to graduation, the Clippers seemed ripe for the picking in the season opener.

The first few innings played to that script as Ipswich took a 2-0 third-inning lead and appeared to have Clippers pitcher Evan Arnold on the ropes.

Arnold’s numbers through three innings: two runs allowed, two earned, one hit, two walks, one strikeout.

His numbers in the final four innings: zero runs allowed, zero earned, one hit, one walk, three strikeouts.

Arnold’s teammates also showed they wouldn’t be willing to turn over the car keys to the CAL without a fight. Tied 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth, the Clippers bats awoke with two outs. Five straight hits, which were capped by a three-run Gavin Powers home run, gave Newburyport its final margin of victory.

So the Clippers recorded their first “W” in a season that follows a three-year run as CAL champion (the fourth three-peat in school history). And what did the players do to celebrate?

Base-running practice.

After meeting with his team for 15 minutes following the final out, Clippers coach Bill Pettingell had his players line up at home plate and practice running out ground balls. Then he had them practice running out a double. Then a triple. Then a few stolen bases. Then, 10 minutes later, they were dismissed.

“We may not be the most talented team in the CAL, but no team will outwork us,” Pettingell said.

And that’s the lesson for CAL opponents. Hard work wins championships — not talent.

A team that practices the fundamentals of running bases after an 8-2 victory won’t become complacent after an Opening Day victory. It will become prepared for future challenges.

Newburyport took the field yesterday afternoon with a host of new players looking to prolong a tradition of excellence between the base-paths.

Some familiar faces chipped in — Kyle Roback had three RBIs, Russell earned the win and Powers had the big home run. Some new faces filled their roles perfectly — Kyle Leblanc scored two runs in the leadoff role, Nick Notargiacomo sparked the six-run rally with a walk and Joe Clancy called a solid game behind the plate.

The scoreboard showed an 8-2 victory — seemingly evidence enough of Newburyport’s continuation of a tradition. The Clippers may continue their CAL title run this season, but it will be more for what the Clippers did after yesterday’s final out than before it.

Dan Guttenplan is the sports editor for the Newburyport Daily News. E-mail him at dguttenplan@ecnnews.com or call him at 978-462-6666, ext. 3237.

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