By Phil Stacey
---- — LYNNFIELD — Baseball, bocce or badminton — it really doesn’t matter what the sport is. If you fall behind by a big margin early, your chances of winning are scant.
It was a good lesson for the Hamilton-Wenham baseball team to be reminded of yesterday as it fell down by four runs after one inning and trailed by five after two frames. Host Lynnfield took care of business the rest of the way, pinning a 7-4 defeat on the Generals in a battle of two of the Cape Ann League’s top squads.
Against Generals’ ace moundsman Austen Michel, Lynnfield had five hits in the first inning and three more in the second, leading to six runs. Michel had a lot of zip on his fastball and a nice roundhouse curve, but the Pioneers brought their hitting shoes with them to the park on this day.
Senior shortstop Jordan Roper, who’ll play college ball at Assumption next year, was 3-for-3 and cranked a 350-foot homer to left-center in the first inning for a quick 2-0 lead. Teammate Spencer Balian added a two-run double later in the frame, and Hamilton-Wenham (now 8-3) never got closer than three runs the rest of the afternoon.
“You can’t give a good team like this that first inning,” H-W head coach Reggie Maidment said. “Austen missed a few pitches early, left them up, and they hit the ball. That kid Roper, you can’t put it down the middle 0-2.
“We battled back and held them; they had two hits after the second inning. Austen bore down, we scored some runs ... we didn’t win it, but it showed the resiliency of my team.”
The Generals got a run back in the second after Pete Duval (2-for-3) doubled and came around to score on a wild pitch, but the home team got two more of its own in the bottom of the inning after Jake Rourke (sacrifice fly) and Trav Briana (fielder’s choice) drove in teammates.
“We knew all about (Michel); I’ve seen him before. He’s strong and throws strikes; he’s a player,” Lynnfield head coach John O’Brien said. “So we knew we had to go after his best pitches — and our guys came out swinging.”
Hamilton-Wenham made it 6-3 in the third when No. 9 hitter Henry Eager (2-for-3, stole base, 2 runs scored) singled and leadoff man Brett Harring followed with a long homer to right field. But Lynnfield junior righty Greg Basilesco settled down, allowing only a run in the last inning from that point on.
“He’s a great location kid and throws the ball well. Greg works the ball in and out, has a nice deuce and changeup,” O’Brien said of his hurler.
Michel settled down nicely in matching Basilesco’s complete game effort. He finished with one walk and struck out three while facing only one batter over the minimum over his final four innings of work.
His teammates turned two double plays behind him, including a heads-up play by Harring in left field. With a Lynnfield runner on second base and none out in the fourth, he snared Jack Fraulini’s line shot and quickly spun and fired towards shortstop, where Mark Vivenzio took the relay and fired to second baseman Drew Gallant to double up the Pioneers’ runner.
“It’s that senior leadership: track the ball, catch the play, then make the play to double their guy up,” Maidment said of Harring. “He’s a good example of our older guys who’ve been here before, know how to make plays, work hard to get quality at-bats and make pitchers work to help the guys behind them (in the order). That’s who we are as a team.
“Even down that big margin, these guys believed they could come back. We were down 6-0 against Georgetown a few weeks ago and came back (a 7-6 win in 10 innings), so these guys believe they can do it. So yes, this is a loss, but we can definitely learn and grow from it.”