By Dan Harrison
---- — LYNN — Ben Bowden earned the MVP for the South in yesterday’s 1-1 tie in the 19th Agganis Baseball Classic while Beverly’s Alex Toomey was the MVP for the North for his two innings of no-hit ball.
But the game’s most valuable play came from Toomey’s Panther teammate Anthony DiOrio.
After the South’s Connor Lordan drove in Jake Porrazzo to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Jorge Perez ripped a single to left-center and Richard Scanlon tried to score from second. DiOrio, who is a shortstop but moved to center in the seventh and made the first two outs of the inning, corralled the ball and fired home to get Scanlon and preserve the tie.
“I’ve played outfield before (during) my sophomore year so I’m used to it,” said DiOrio, who will play at Salem State next fall. “I knew he (Scanlon) was going to go and I didn’t want him to score. I put everything I had into the throw.”
Fellow Panther Toomey took the mound for the fourth and fifth innings for the North and he didn’t allow a hit while striking out three. He did walk Brian Carney but then picked him off at first base to end the fifth inning.
Toomey also had a great play at first base with a man on in the bottom of the third. Lordan ripped a grounder to Toomey, who fired to second and then made it back to the bag for the throw to complete the double-play.
“My change-up was working. It wasn’t a big pitch for me during the season but I’ve been working on it this summer,” said Toomey. “I was getting ahead of batters and it worked out. It’s an honor to come out here and play against some great ball-players.”
Lynn English’s Bowden worked the first two innings for the South, fanning five as the North didn’t get a base-runner against the Vanderbilt bound left-hander. Peabody’s Pat Ruotolo pitched the third and fourth innings and while he struck out five, a few passed balls ultimately led to the North’s only run of the game.
With one out in the top of the fifth, Ruotolo got Thomas Connors to chase a curve in the dirt, but the ball got by catcher Kyle Devin allowing Connors to take first. Then, after a walk, a catcher’s interference call put another runner on with two outs and when Ruotolo threw another curve in the dirt that bounced off the front of the plate and to the backstop, Connors crossed home to break the scoreless tie.
“I felt great. My arm’s better than it’s been,” said Ruotolo, who also talked about the experience. “It was a fun time out there. It was a great time pitching against everyone from around here.”
North coach T.J. Baril, who led Masco to a Division 2 North Championship this season, spoke about his first opportunity to coach in the Agganis Classic.
“I get to hang around a bunch of guys who love baseball,” said Baril. “It’s cool. It’s a different atmosphere — more laid back with guys joking around. The pitching was excellent. Their first two guys (Bowden and Ruotolo) were lights out. They know they’re only throwing two innings so they can bring a little extra.”
St. John’s Prep pitcher Dustin Hunt started the game for the North and he whiffed two while allowing one hit. Central Catholic’s Andrew Hamel pitched the next two scoreless innings before Toomey took the bump and then Bishop Fenwick’s Brian Burke and Marblehead’s Connor Green pitched the final two innings.
The North managed just four hits on the game and three of those came off the bats of guys from Bishop Fenwick. Gianni Esposito (double), Burke and Mike MacKenzie had a hit apiece and played extremely well for Baril, who is a Bishop Fenwick alum.
“We just love to play and we give 100-percent,” Esposito said of the Crusaders players. “It’s a great opportunity to represent Bishop Fenwick and we just tried to make the most of it.”