Methuen Rangers Baseball '22

Sun, May 29, 2022 TBA @ Methuen
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Final
Austin Prep 0 0 0 0 2 6 0 8
Methuen 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Rangers shutout in Hillie Classic

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Sunday, May, 29 By Jeff Hamrick

HAVERHILL – Facing the top-rated team in the state, Matt Pappalardo knew he’d have to bring his best stuff. Facing Austin Prep’s ace for the Pena Division title of the Hillie Classic, the Methuen junior also had to figure a bit of luck wouldn’t hurt either.

Pappalardo proved up to the challenge, allowing one hit through four. A couple unearned runs in the fifth, however, proved all the help the Cougars would need as they went on to an 8-0 victory Sunday afternoon at Trinity Stadium.

“I just wanted to stay locked in,” Pappalardo said. “I had a good routing pre-game. I trusted myself and my coaches and what they were calling, and I just wanted to get the job done.”

Facing just two batters over the minimum the first four innings, Pappalardo threw first-pitch strikes to all but one.

A single and infield error in the fifth left runners on first and second with no outs. Pappalardo struck out the next two batters before giving up a single to Cougars’ lead-off hitter Ernie Little to fall behind 2-0.

Pappalardo was chased with two outs in the sixth after allowing his fourth hit of the afternoon. The junior right-hander finished with seven strikeouts and three walks.

“When he’s on, he’s good,” Methuen coach Cam Roper said of his starter. “He’s a bulldog out there. He throws three pitches for strikes. He can spot them all and locate … I’m thankful I get him for one more year.”

Austin Prep (20-0) proceeded to score six runs in the inning with the big hit a bases-clearing double by Will Burns.

“Pitch for pitch for the first five innings, even when they got their two runs, I thought we were right there,” Roper said. “We were unable to prevent the big inning which was one of the keys to the game coming in.”

But the Rangers (6-14) had no success against University of Virginia commit Evan Blanco, who won his eighth game of the season. The left-hander struck out 15 with no walks, going to three balls against only one hitter. With four left-handed hitters among the first six spots in the lineup, Methuen knew it could be a long afternoon.

“Righties, lefties alike, I think the Blanco kid is tough on everybody,” Roper said. “He’s very, very good. He throws multiple pitches for strikes. He has good location and changes speed. So, yeah, regardless of lefty-righty we were going to be in for a battle. My lefties are some of my scrappiest hitters, so there was never a question they were going to be in the lineup. But we have only seen three lefties all season, and the best one was today.”

Blanco would have garnered the first no-hitter of his high-school career if not for a lackadaisical play in the third. After watching his previous four teammates go down on strikes, Joey Pride, Methuen’s number-nine batter, tapped a one-hopper back to the pitcher, who trotted to first to make the putout himself despite the first baseman being on the bag. Hustling down the line, though, Pride beat Blanco to register the Rangers’ only hit of the day.

“I’m kicking myself a little bit,” said Blanco, who finished one strikeout shy of tying his career record. “There was just a little bit of lost focus there. I should have flipped it to my first baseman, but it happens. It’s part of the game. I’m a little mad, but we still got the win.”

Sunday’s win was Austin Prep’s 11th shutout in a season in which the Cougars have now outscored opponents by a combined 180-14. They have allowed more than one run only twice – in wins of 22-5 over Cardinal Spellman and 11-2 over Arlington Catholic.

“We don’t necessarily think shutouts,” Blanco said. “I think that’s why it does happen that way because we don’t rely on it. We just rely on our hitters to put up more runs than the other guys.”

Methuen now will have to wait to see if it has earned a spot in the Division 1 postseason.

“We should know in the next couple days,” Roper said. “But based on our calculations going in to today, I thought a win against a program like that would get us in. Even keeping it within a couple we might have had a shot as well.”

Game Statistics:

Austin Prep (8): Ernie Little 2b 4-1-2, Jake Zawatsky 3b 2-1-0, Will Burns 1b 4-0-2, Matt Chatelle c 2-0-0, Rowan Oostman cr 0-1-0, Dom Gabardi rf 4-0-0, Thomas Fabbo dh 3-1-1, Jason DiBiase ph 1-0-0, Brenden Walsh cf 4-2-1, David VanderZouwen lf 2-1-0, Josh Keith ss 3-1-1. Totals 29-8-7

Methuen (0): Owen Sullivan ss 3-0-0, Sam Kalivas rf 3-0-0, Matt Pappalardo p 3-0-0, Alex Borrelli c 3-0-0, Ronnal Marizan dh 2-0-0, Miguel Lopez 2b 0-0-0, Owen Kneeland 3b 2-0-0, Andon Zanini lf 2-0-0, TJ Mullen 1b 2-0-0, Joey Pride cf 2-0-1. Totals 22-0-1

RBI: Burns 3, Little Zawatsky, Walsh, Keith   

WP: Evan Blanco 8-0 (7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 15 K); LP: Pappalardo


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