Palma Tosses Gem for Post 151
LEOMINSTER -- All successful teams go into games with a plan, an approach, to dealing with the opposition. For Leominster American Legion Post 151′s baseball team, it all comes down to how they’ll pitch to a lineup.
And when you have a pitcher like Lunenburg High grad Connor Palma, a lanky righty who can throw four pitches -- fastball, curve, off-speed, and slider -- for strikes, you’re going to be successful more often than not.
Palma was certainly successful Monday night, as he got ahead of hitters and fanned 12 en route to a one-hit, 2-0 shutout of visiting Framingham Post 74 at Pin Cannavino Field.
While Post 151 (8-1 overall, 7-0 Zone 4) used solid two-out approaches in the home half of the third and sixth innings, it was the approach on the mound as well as the sidelines -- and some solid defending -- that captured the W for Post 151.
And while Palma, who threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 24 hitters he faced over 6 2/3 innings, did the heavy lifting, credit must also go to catcher Rocco Pandiscio for relaying pitching coach Dylan Poulin’s signs, as well as for Palma for nodding at every single one.
“Get ahead,” Poulin said of the planned approach against Framingham (5-6). “Get ahead with anything, too: fastball, curveball, slider, and (Palma) was doing it with every pitch, which made life easy.”
And when the time was right, Poulin continued, depending on the count -- usually with two strikes -- and where the hitters were in the box, he then signaled for Palma’s backdoor slider, a pitch that broke late and came in on lefties with just enough panache to keep the Post 74 lineup off-balance.
“He’s got some pretty good tail on his fastball,” Pandiscio said. “And his curve and slider had some life today. That and the shade in front of the pitcher’s mound, that’s tough to catch this kid, but he threw some gas today and made some kids look silly.
“He pitched a beautiful game. Usually when you get down in the count, they’re going to sit fastball and think he’s going to blow it by him. But they get a slider or a curve starting in the strike zone coming right out.”
Palma had retired the first three hitters with two Ks including a sharp shoot by Pandiscio down to first before using the backdoor slider to get out of the inning for the first for four backward Ks of the outing. He walked the first hitter in the second, but a pair of bookended strikeouts around a flyout to Nick White in left retired the side.
He yielded a one-out walk in the first, before a grounder to Matt Dupuis at short and a passed ball moved the runner to third. But that’s as far as he got, as Palma utilized the slider again for the third out, stranding the potential opening run 90 feet away.
“After the second inning, after I saw that my breaking balls had a lot of late life to them,” Palma said, “I knew I could throw them at any count to draw them in to swing or to drop it in for a strike, which is huge confidence-wise, especially if my fastball’s not completely on.
“When they were jumping on the fastball a little, we would work them inside and go back to the outside with the slider or the curve, and it would drop in nice and pretty.”
But it was Leominster who got the run home in the bottom of the third, thanks to solid two-out hitting.
Fitchburg grad Sage Bray found himself plunked with the second pitch he saw before he swiped second with White at the dish, before the Red Raider and Patriot alums switched places as White drove him in with a standup double to right-center, giving Post 151 a 1-0 lead.
“Whitey has been phenomenal for us,” Post 151 skipper Jeff Dediean said. “Offensively, he uses the whole field and driving the baseball when the pitch is there, going the other way when the pitch is outside. He has big RBIs in big spots.”
Palma went back out with the lead and walked the leadoff hitter, who took second and went to third on an error with no outs.
Yet Palma wouldn’t yield, fanning the next two hitters and getting the fourth hitter in the frame to ground to first for a massive Post 74 squander.
Palma allowed one additional hitter to reach on a base hit through the left side by Mike Gavagan, but he only got as far as second on a sac bunt back to Palma, who then struck out the final four hitters in his outing before giving way to White.
“He was really good today,” said Dediean. “Our pitching from when we’ve started to now has been great. He gave us everything we needed today, with no bullpen at all. He was really, really, really good. We needed that out of him.
“We have a good staff, but if we could get our offense going a little bit against good teams and good pitchers, we’ll be fine.”
White allowed one hit, but a grounder to first ended the ballgame.
Leominster scored its second run in the bottom of the sixth, again with two out.
With the bases loaded, Leominster grad Andrew Harrington singled sharply up the middle. The Framingham second baseman had knocked it down, but he had no play as Pat Gallagher sprinted in from third.
“He’s been swinging a good bat,” Dediean said. “He put the ball in a spot where we could score an insurance run, which was huge.”