By Dan Harrison
---- — The Salem State baseball team only had three wins on its Florida trip but head coach Mike Ward was pleased with the way his boys played against some of the toughest Division 3 teams in the country.
The Vikings even lost by a run in extra innings to two-time defending Div. 3 champion Marietta, so Ward knew good things would happen when his club came back to Salem.
Yesterday with Suffolk visiting, things didn’t go so smoothly in the early innings but the Viking bats came alive in the second inning as SSU drubbed the Rams 14-5 in the team’s first game back from the Sunshine State.
“It’s funny, down in Florida I feel our record was deceptive. We scheduled some of best teams in the country and I think it really prepared us to come back North,” said Ward, who’s Vikings improved to 4-7.
“Today, I thought we swung the bats, played good defense and got excellent pitching from Ryan (Sharp) and I thought we played a really solid game.”
After starter Mike Baryski had trouble finding the strike zone, some early walks allowed the visitors to take a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Ward had to pull Baryski and put in Sharp, who went 6 1/3 innings giving up just one earned run the rest of the way while forcing seven ground outs. Sharp hit a batter but didn’t issue any walks against the Rams (10-2).
“He (Sharp) locates his fastball well and gets good movement on it. He’s a fastball/curve guy who throws the change up. Today his curve was really on and he had good pop throwing the fastball,” explained Ward. “But the key for him is he has great control. He’s a senior and he’s been around.”
The Vikings found their offense in the second inning thanks to a two-run single by Ryan Beliveau followed by a double by Steve Buitkus that plated two more runs and evened the game at 4-4. It was a big statement made early in the game by the Vikings against a Suffolk team that entered with just one loss.
“After we tied it up I felt like we had a fresh game. It was like we had another seven inning game after we got the first inning behind us,” said Ward.
But the Vikings were only getting started. Beverly native Mike Lamothe smashed a two RBI double to put SSU ahead before fellow Garden city native Ethan Trowt ripped an RBI single to make it 7-4 in the third.
Lamothe is hitting .280 with seven RBI and was in the seven hole. Trout meanwhile is hitting just .200 in the eight-hole but a big, 3 for 3 day at the dish yesterday that included a team-high three RBI could help get the junior going.
“When they (Lemothe and Trowt) hit like they hit today it’s a bonus because defensively, they’re excellent,” said Ward. “They are glove guys first, but they also aren’t easy outs. They’re productive hitters.”
Beliveau, Matt Burgess and Steve Buitkus all had two RBI while SSU as a team stole five bags in the win. SSU will need more of that production out of Trowt, Lemothe and others with nationally ranked Wheaton in town today. Wheaton lost in last year’s Division 3 Championship to Marietta.