HOLLIS – Not often does a high school pitcher make his first start of the season against an undefeated opponent in early May.
Hollis Brookline and St. Thomas Aquinas both sent out a pitcher on Monday who hadn’t started a game all year, as the two teams at times played a game of secrets rather than a game of baseball in the Saints’ 6-2 win over the Cavaliers.
Both teams had their best pitchers available – HB’s Mike Chase and St. Thomas’ Jordan Bean – but neither coach opted to use his best option. That’s because both HB coach Ryan Coulter and St. Thomas coach Marc Schoff viewed the game in the same way.
“Coach (Ryan) Coulter and I were talking before the game and said the most beautiful thing about this, neither one of us loses a state championship tonight,” Schoff said. “This is about positioning and being one of the top seeds, potentially, and hosting a couple of (tournament) games and seeing how far you can go.”
And neither coach wanted to give too much away.
“I think both teams were playing a little card game, going back and forth,” Coulter said. “We didn’t throw our better pitchers and they didn’t throw theirs because there is a good chance we might see each other in the tournament.”
Instead of Bean, it was Craig Teed getting the win for St. Thomas (9-0 in Division II) after he went five innings and allowed two runs on six hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. Collin Coppinger pitched two scoreless innings of relief, allowing a hit and striking out two.
“Teed established the strike zone early and pounded it strike zone during his five innings,” Schoff said. “I was proud of my sophomore lefthander to come in in a save opportunity and get it done.”
St. Thomas’ Andy Johnson scored two runs and hit a solo home run to lead off the second while Bean, Chris White, Steve Hemming and Jon Nartiff (two) also drove in runs.
“We ran the bases well and I thought we played really good defense,” Schoff said. “We left quite a few people on base and we by no means had any big hits, but we manufactured runs.”
Cam Lafluer had two hits and scored a run for the Cavs (9-1) and Mitch Frick had a solo home run of his own, but Coulter was frustrated with how the team performed at the plate in key situations. The Cavs struggled with runners in scoring position, going 1 for 10 with three strikeouts and a double play.
“We didn’t play as good as we can,” Coulter said. “I’m disappointed with some of our at bats. We didn’t have really good at bats, our plate discipline wasn’t good. First inning, we loaded the bases and of course we hit into a double play. If we score a run there, it changes the game.”
Lafluer took the loss, allowing two runs on five hits in three innings, while Nick Siegel allowed three runs on three hits, a walk and three hit batters in two innings of work.
Frick’s homer to lead off the bottom of the fourth made it a 2-1 game, but Teed battled back to get the next two HB hitters out. Kyle Gervais kept the inning alive with a double and Siegel followed with a ground ball that made it through the left side of the infield.
Gervais went hard around third, but Nartiff picked up the ball in shallow left and Coulter opted to hold the runner at third. Teed then got Sean Connors to ground out to end the inning.
“That ball was real shallow,” Coulter said. “To get a guy thrown out at the plate wouldn’t have been good.”
The Saints tacked on three runs in the top of the fifth to take a 5-1 lead.
“That was a big turn of events right there,” Schoff said. “That was huge.”
The Cavs got a run back in the bottom of the innings, when Lafluer led off with a walk and scored from first on a double by Collin Pellerin. But Teed battled back to retire the next three batters, leaving Pellerin stranded in scoring position.
Jeremy Heard hit a two-out double off Coppinger in the sixth, but the St. Thomas lefty forced a groundout to end the inning.
“I’m excited because we came over here and competed and that’s all I asked them to do,” Schoff said.