The former St. Mary’s of Lynn star had his curve going early and located his fastball nicely throughout the contest. Nothing was easy for the Westfield State hitters, who watched Buckland get up early in counts as he pounded the strike zone. The southpaw also helped his own cause with a nice barehanded play on a chopper down the first base line in the third inning.
“He just consistently threw strikes. Everything was around the plate,” said Owls (19-21) head coach Ray Arra. “Lefties have given us problems all year. (Buckland) was great.”
It helped that Salem State’s fielders made every routine play — and a few extraordinary ones — to keep the Owls from crossing the plate. Kevin Salines had a pair of fine grabs on line drives at second base; shortstop Ryan Beliveau of Lynn smothered anything up the middle; and first baseman Matt Burgess ended the fourth inning with runners on the corners when he made a great catch on a foul ball down the right field line.
In addition, Beverly’s Mike Lamothe squeezed a foul-tip strike three for the second out in the ninth, then ended the game with a diving catch behind home plate.
“I think the formula for us has been good defense, good at-bats and pressure on the basepaths,” noted Ward. “Our pitchers can challenge hitters because they trust their defense.”
The Vikings’ enthusiasm was obvious from the opening pitch. There was a lot of chatter coming out of the home team’s dugout in support of both Buckland and the guys at the dish. That enthusiasm carried out onto the diamond as the Vikings grabbed a run in the first inning to take an early lead.
As it has done all season, Salem State used small ball and timely hitting to get its offense going. After Salines (3-for-3, 2 runs scored) ripped an opposite field single to left field, he stole second base with one out and came home on Gloucester native Brett Cahill’s two-out single. Two innings later Buitkus singled, stole second and came home on a Salines RBI single to make it 2-0.