Fitchburg Routs Gardner, Cruises into Baseball Playoffs
FITCHBURG -- The comeback is now complete.
Three years after the program hit absolute rock bottom with a 43-game losing streak that stretched across more than two whole seasons, the Fitchburg High baseball team has officially made a 180-degree turn. With Thursday afternoon’s 16-0 mercy-shortened win over visiting Gardner High School, the Red and Gray claimed a share of the Mid-Wach C title alongside rival North Middlesex Regional.
The Red Raiders and Patriots both finished the league at 6-2.
“This has been a good group; I’m really proud of them,” said Fitchburg High Hall of Fame coach Ray Cosenza. “Our three seniors, they won three games in two years, and really took their lumps. They all worked hard and played in the summer.
“This is huge. As everyone knows, we’ve struggled (in the past). We got it back on track, and we’ll see what happens in the tournament.”
Fitchburg finished the regular season at 14-4, marking the first time since 2000 that the Red and Gray have hit the 14-win plateau. The Red Raiders now await next week’s Division 1 sectional tournament pairings to see who they play next.
Gardner’s season came to an end at 2-16 (0-8).
While Fitchburg (8 hits) swung the bats and put up crooked numbers in three of the four innings, credit must go to FHS junior twirler Jameson Carroll, who allowed only three hits in his five innings of work. The right-hander threw 60 pitches, not going above 13 in any inning, while fanning six.
He didn’t walk any, and his defense was flawless behind him.
″(Carroll) really pitched well,” Cosenza said. “When he pitches and keeps it down, that’s where he’s going to be effective. He did a really good job. We have played good defense most of the year. Pitching and defense has been our key.”
Said Carroll: “I was painting the corners, hitting the spots. And I started most of the batters off with first-pitch strikes. Every once in a while, I threw in the off-speed to surprise them.”
Of the 18 hitters Gardner sent to the plate, Carroll threw 15 first-pitch strikes.
“He pitched excellent,” outgoing Gardner skipper Gregg Picucci -- who is also the North County American Legion Post 129 assistant coach, who handles Carroll during the summer -- said of the FHS hurler. “Just like he said, he pitched the corners and changed speeds. If he keeps doing that, he’ll be a big asset for us.”
After Carroll shut GHS down 1-2-3 in the first, Fitchburg erupted for eight runs in the home half of the frame to really set the tone.
“We swung the bats pretty well, and I know they had to use a bunch of pitchers, but it’s a good way to finish,” Cosenza said, noting Gardner’s use of two pitchers in the first inning. “It’s a good way to head into the tournament, because we were struggling three games ago. These last two games, we got it back on track a little bit.
″(The first inning) made everyone relax a little bit more.”
Zach Scott led off with one of Fitchburg’s 11 walks before he stole second. Sage Bray found himself plunked, before Daniel Mata reached on an infield single to the hole at short, loading the bases.
With Carroll (2 hits) digging in, the Gardner starter uncorked a first-pitch wild pitch, bringing Scott in with the only run Fitchburg really needed.
Carroll would then walk to load the bases again, before Anthony Cuevas doubled to deep left-center, clearing the bases and putting Fitchburg in command, 4-0.
Scott would get up a second time and ripped a bases-clearing double to deliver Cuevas, Tai Le, and Nick Falconer; he would come home on a wild pitch to Anthony Silverio to make it 8-0.
FHS added five in the bottom of the second, with the bottom half of the order -- Carroll, Sammy Robichaud, Cuevas, Le and Falconer -- all scoring runs with one out.
The Raiders would make it 14-0 in the third as pinch-runner Riley Gonynor scored on a grounder to second, before adding two more in the fourth to wrap this Mid-Wach C contest up.
Gardner’s Reyhan Sapeg had two of the hits in the second and fourth, while Aidan Zelesky had the third.