With a 2-0 lead and Deering threatening with the bases loaded in the fourth inning Tuesday, Westbrook did what Westbrook does: It turned to its championship-winning defense for a game-changing stand.
Catcher Kyle Heath completed a double play with a tag at the plate to end Deering’s only threat, and the defending Class A champion Blue Blazes went on to a 5-1 win in an SMAA baseball opener.
“(The fly ball with the bases loaded) wasn’t very deep. I knew we had a chance,” Heath said. “The runner was halfway down the line, going back to third. Then he started coming, and we thought we had him because he had a bad jump. We practice that stuff and we just need to execute.”
Good thing they did. At that point runs were hard to come by.
“That turned the game around a little bit,” Westbrook Coach Greg Souza said. “We’re going to go as far as our defense can carry us.”
Westbrook ace Ethan Nash gave up two hits, striking out eight, including the final three batters to close the game. Only two Rams walked.
It was a typical workmanlike opener through the first three innings. Westbrook took a 2-0 lead when Collin Joyce scored on an infield error in the first, then Jack McCullough’s single to shallow right brought in Andrew St. Clair in the second.
St. Clair had doubled to center and advanced on a passed ball.
Deering, intent on climbing back into playoff contention this season, found life in the fourth. Ben Peterson led off with a walk, Will Barlock followed with the Rams’ first hit, a single down the third-base line, and Nick Bevilacqua laid down a bunt and reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases with no outs.
Up stepped Kevin Goldberg, who sent a fly ball into shallow right field for what looked like a sacrifice fly. But Ryan Gilligan made the catch and fired the ball to Nash. He relayed it to Heath, who tagged out the sliding Peterson.
“We were trying to generate runs,” said Deering Coach Tim Eisenhart. “If it were the third or fourth or fifth game, we might not try to score Peterson. It was something to try, to take advantage of early-season rust. (Westbrook’s stand) was tough to respond to.”
Joyce’s single in the fifth pushed Westbrook’s lead to 3-0, and the Blue Blazes got their final two runs in the sixth on Kaleb Kent’s single to center.
Nick Carmichael ended the shutout with an RBI double in the seventh, but Nash then struck out Deering’s final three batters.
Sam Luebbert took the loss, giving up three hits and four runs, three earned, in five-plus innings. Dan Marzilli came on in relief. By then Westbrook had done just enough.
“I thought I did what I needed to do but my defense was right there,” Nash said. “It gives me more confidence to throw more strikes because I know I can trust my defense.”