By Jean DePlacido
---- — Editor's Note: Days after this story was initially published, Pingree realized that the EIL's point system left it tied with Bancroft in the standings, technically giving the title to them because they won the meeting between the two teams. Pingree finished 7-1 in league play but with 12 points and Bancroft was 6-2, also with 12.
SOUTH HAMILTON — The goal was to wrap up the Eastern Independent League championship, and Pingree methodically built up a big lead over Lexington Christian Academy en route to an 8-2 victory and the title.
Rob Van Tuyl pitched five strong innings and gave up only one run to get the win. He scattered five hits, walked one, hit one, and struck out seven. Freshman Zach Mitchell came on in relief to get the save, fanning five in two innings of solid relief.
“I’m very happy for these guys,” said Pingree coach Chris Powers after his team improved to 7-1 in the league and 8-7 overall with one game remaining in the regular season. “This was a must win for us to win the title. We’ll find out if we’re in the New England’s on Friday morning when the seedings come out. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but this win puts us in a very good spot.
“Van Tuyl did a great job today. He’s a three year varsity guy and one of our senior captains. We’re very excited about this team. We have three freshmen starting in Mitchell (Gloucester), Christian Kukas (Peabody), and catcher Cam Schmitt (Andover). It’s been a while since a bunch of young guys have come in to play right away, and the best part is we’ll have them around for a few more years.”
Pingree scored three times in the first inning off starter Andy Kim. Reese Fulmer beat out an infield hit and Mitchell was hit by a pitch. Schmitt delivered a two out triple to clear the bases and scored on a single by Kukas.
Schmitt led the attack with three hits and scored all three times. Kukas went 2 for 3 with a pair of run producing singles and also walked.
Van Tuyl, who is from Marblehead, gave up a run in the second inning, but got out of a bases loaded jam by striking out Andrew Cerci and getting Wesley Michalak to ground out. Lexington Christian threatened in the fourth, but left runners on second and third when Van Tuyl caught Michalak looking at a called third strike for the final out.
“My fast ball was moving well, and they weren’t able to catch up to it,” said Van Tuyl. “Our defense was very good, and we got the hits when we needed them. Our goal was to win the EIL championship, and we did it. Now we’re hoping to get a spot in the New England’s which start on Monday.”
The Highlanders tacked on two more runs in the third inning to take a 5-1 lead. Griffin Beal singled to left field to score Schmitt, who was aboard, and John Lucey’s sacrifice fly plated the other run. Beal also made the defensive play of the game in the fifth inning, diving to catch a sinking pop up.
They broke it open with three more runs in the fourth when Fulmer and Mitchell singled to open the inning. Fulmer scored on a ground out by Ryan St. Pierre and Mitchell came home on a wild pitch. Kukas came through again with a solid single to knock in a run.
“We’ve got great senior leadership on this team, especially our captains (Fulmer, Jeff DePiero from Beverly, and Van Tuyl),” said Powers. “Now we’ll wait for the New England seedings to be announced.”