PEABODY — It was unquestionably the most important at-bat of the game, and Peabody’s hard-throwing righthander Pat Ruotolo wasn’t about to take the easy way out.
With a one run lead, runners on second and third and two outs in the top of the sixth, Ruotolo bore down against Marblehead’s No. 3 hitter, catcher Tom Koopman. The Magicians’ junior captain worked the count full and fouled off two pitches, but Ruotolo fanned him with a cutting fastball that hit the black of the plate away to end the threat.
“I went to visit Pat before the at-bat and I said with first open, should we put him on and face the next kid? Pat said ‘I’ll get him’,” said Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt. “That’s Pat’s confidence.”
Ruotolo retired the side in order in the seventh to close the door on Peabody’s 1-0 win at Bezemes Diamond. It was the eighth straight win for the Tanners (9-1) and Marblehead dipped to 3-5.
Brett LeBlanc gave Marblehead some life when he reached on a bunt single in the sixth then took second on an errant throw. Senior Connor Green followed with an infield single and stole second to put Ruotolo in a bit of trouble.
The UConn-bound righty struck out Matt Koopman, however, and followed that up by fanning older brother Tom, who had Marblehead’s only other hit back in the first.
“We had two shots to get those runs and Pat reared back. Give him the credit,” said Marblehead coach Jason Tarasuik.
Marblehead’s hitters had some good at-bats and fouled off a fair number of Routolo’s high heaters. Still, the Tanner ace had pinpoint location on his off-speed stuff and retired 14 straight in the middle innings. He finished with 13 strikeouts, three hits allowed and no walks.