By Phil Stacey
---- — BEVERLY — He delivered dozens upon dozens of hits as a stalwart defenseman for Beverly High’s state championship hockey team this past winter.
So it was more than a little ironic that Sean Munzing would win a baseball game for the Panthers after he himself was plunked.
Munzing took a 1-1 pitch off his left elbow with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning yesterday, forcing fellow senior Kevin Cuneo home with the game-winning run in Beverly’s 6-5 victory over Lynn English at Brother Roberts Field.
“I went up (to bat) just thinking about trying to make contact and hoping for the best,” said Munzing, who also earned the victory with three terrific innings of relief work on the mound. “I never even saw the ball; it just hit me.”
Cuneo (3 runs scored) and cleanup hitter Matt Hamor started the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game by drawing back-to-back walks off of English reliever Mike Holt. Jon Berchoff sacrificed both runners up a base, and the visiting Bulldogs elected to intentionally walk third baseman George Hillios (2 hits, 2 RBI) to load the bases with one out. After a strikeout, Munzing ended this nearly three-hour contest when he was hit.
“I liked the toughness we showed today,” said Beverly head coach Dave Wilbur, whose team has won two straight and stands at 2-2 on the young season. “We were up three runs (4-1) midway through, then fell behind (5-4) but managed to get that run right back and won it in the end.
“For a team still trying to find its way, this is a real good team win. It’s all about confidence, not losing your poise and believing you can always come back.”
After English (1-2) scored three times without making an out in the top of the fifth to turn a two-run deficit into a 5-4 lead, Munzing came on to relieve David Drinkwater and got out of the inning without further damage. He stranded a Bulldog runner on second base in both the sixth and seven innings while finishing with a pair of strikeouts.
Junior righty Ted Leathersich, making his first career start for Beverly, was impressive. He surrendered four hits, two walks and hit a batter while fanning four, but his pitch count was approaching 70 and he exited after four innings holding a 4-2 lead.
“Teddy pitched very well for his first time out. I’m very happy with his performance,” said Wilbur.
Beverly had scored twice in the first inning when leadoff man Craig Hall stole home on a delayed double steal and Cuneo came around on a Hillios RBI single to center. Two more runs were plated by the hosts in the third inning when Hamor’s double to left-center scored Cuneo and another Hillios single to center off Bulldogs’ lefty starter Andrew Napoleon brought home Hamor.
But English was resilient. Kyle O’Connor (3-for-3, 3 stolen bases) and Anthony De La Cruz were both hit by pitches to start the fifth, and a bunt single by catcher Drew Gentile was thrown away for a two-base error, scoring both runners ahead of him to tie the score. Joseue Perez singled to left to bring home Gentile from third, and the visitors led 5-4.
“I’d be happy if we battled like this in most games,” said English head coach Joe Caponigro, whose team swiped six bases. “We executed some bunts and took advantage on the bases. That’s the type of ball we want to play.”
The Panthers tied the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the fifth when second baseman Sean Curtin singled, reached third when Cuneo’s fly ball to right was dropped, and scored on a Berchoff sacrifice fly to center.
Beverly finished with seven hits as Hillios had two and the top five hitters in the lineup (Hall, Curtin, Cuneo, Hamor and Berchoff) finished with one each. Hall added two stolen bases while Cuneo and Hillios had one apiece.