The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys baseball team dropped a tightly played, well-pitched contest to the visiting Blackstone Valley Beavers before a sparse, school-vacation-week gathering Tuesday. The game was played under sunny skies, a far cry from the cold winds and dark clouds that forced postponement of the original Patriots’ Day morning start.
Tuesday’s loss leaves the Vineyarders at 3 and 3 on the season. They jumped right back into action Wednesday in Norwell, where they participated in the fourth annual Russ Downes Tournament along with Westwood, Latin Academy, and host Norwell. MV lost to Westwood on Wednesday.
The loyal fans who turned out Tuesday were treated to a pitchers’ duel, featuring the Vineyarders’ Tucker McNeeley and Austin LaBastie of the Beavers. Relying mainly on their fastballs, with enough breaking balls to keep hitters honest, both hurlers dominated in the early going. Rallies amounted to the occasional walk, followed by attempts to move the runner around the bases.
In the first inning, MV’s leadoff hitter Noah Cooperrider reached third compliments of a walk and two steals; that was as far as he got. In the second, the Beavers’ leadoff hitter Colin Fiorentino reached on an error, advanced to third on two groundouts, then was thrown out trying to steal home, McNeeley firing to catcher Jonas Lukowitz for the tag.
In the third, Blackstone managed a run without hitting the ball out of the infield. The Beavers recorded the first of their two hits on the day, a dribbler in front of the plate. After two infield outs, that runner came home on a wild pitch.
The game turned in the fifth inning. In the top of the frame, the Beavers took advantage of several Vineyard miscues to push two runs across. Blackstone’s Andrew Carroll delivered the first run, unearned, with a solid base hit. A sacrifice fly followed, giving the visitors‘ their eventual 3-0 margin.
MV came right back in the bottom of the inning. DH Andrew Wiley led off with a scorching single to left. With one out Jacob Cardoza lined a ball in the same direction. But the would-be rally, and the inning, ended quickly as the ball was caught and Wiley was doubled up at first.
Left-hander Henry Gallagher took over for the hard-luck McNeeley to start the sixth inning, and pitched two shutout innings. As for LaBastie, he regained his early dominance and retired the last six Vineyard batters in order. The final numbers for the Blackstone senior pitcher: no runs, two hits, seven strikeouts.
For the Vineyarders, this was a frustrating game on several counts. They were facing Austin LaBastie for the second time in a week and, according to Head Coach Gary Simmons, hoped to fare better: “Unfortunately, he was just as tough as last time. He throws strikes and does nothing to hurt himself.” Assistant Coach Olsen Houghton added, “He’s very fast. We couldn’t put two hits together, and you can’t win that way.”
In addition, MV was coming off an impressive, confidence-building 2-1 win over an excellent Coyle Cassidy team, and hoped to carry that momentum into their second Blackstone game. Austin LaBastie made that difficult.