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HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Sluggish North rallies

For the first two innings on Friday night, it looked like the North Stafford baseball team was still feeling the effects of a tough loss to Patriot, 24 hours earlier.

The Wolverines were outhit by the Pioneers in that contest and dropped an 11–4 decision. Against the Indians on Friday night, they were still struggling with their hitting and run production and trailed 2–1 after two frames.

But things changed in a hurry for coach Jim Labrusciano’s veteran squad in its next at-bat.

Led by center fielder Austin Gregory’s 4-for-4 performance, the Wolverines erupted for five hits and four runs in the third inning, and then rode the pitching of junior Austin Meyer to an impressive 8–3 nonconference victory.

“We did a good job of bouncing back against a quality opponent,” Labrusciano said. “Our hitting started to snowball. We always tell our guys if they keep hitting the ball hard somewhere, good things are going to happen.”

It took a little while, but once those things started happening, the Wolverines made sure they didn’t waste the opportunity against their big county rival.

While their offense was getting untracked with 12 hits off two Stafford pitchers, they got a big lift on the mound from Meyer.

The right-hander went the distance, improving to 2–1 while scattering four hits and striking out nine. Last year, he came on strong at the end of the season and posted six victories.

“The first inning kind of got away,” said Meyer. “But we bounced back after that. We have good chemistry on this team.”

The good chemistry really got going this week. Last night’s game was the fourth for North Stafford (4–3) this week, and Labrusciano was pleased his team was able to notch three wins.

“I’m proud of these guys for winning three out of four games this week,” Labrusciano said. “It’s prom week and there’s been a lot of distractions, but they came through with the wins.”

Despite only four hits off Meyer, Stafford (3–4) grabbed the early lead with two hits and a pair of throwing errors by the Wolverines. Indians pitcher John Romanello helped his own cause with one of the hits.

But in the third, the Wolverines knocked Romanello out of the game, sending nine batters to the plate and scoring four times. Gregory and Meyer both had RBIs during the surge.

After Tyler Bailey singled to start the inning, Gregory roped a double to right-center to score him. Meyer followed with a single up the middle to add another run and North Stafford took control.

Wolverines left fielder Nicco Cribb and catcher Ian Pape were keys in the success as well with two hits apiece.

“I’ve been seeing the ball really well for the last three games,” said Gregory, who started every game as a freshman last year. “Collectively, we’ve been hitting the ball really well, but to people. But if we keep taking good swings, they’ll fall in.”

In the fourth, North Stafford padded its lead with three more runs after a pair of Stafford errors and a two-run single by first baseman Austin Layton. Once again, the middle of the lineup led the way.

Gregory led off the inning with a single to right and came home on a hard grounder to third by Jake Gallaher. After Meyer reached on a throwing error, he and Gallaher both scored on a drive to right by Layton to make it 8–2.

With a six-run cushion, Meyer kept getting stronger in the later innings. Five of his strikeouts came after the third, when he allowed just two hits and two base runners. Stafford got its final run in the top of the seventh, when Josh Beacorn doubled and scored on a grounder by Jordan Atkins.

Four errors did not help Stafford’s cause, but coach Tommy Harrison believes his team still has a lot of potential. Among the Indians’ three victories so far this year are a win over perennial Commonwealth District power Colonial Forge.

“This was the third game in a row where we weren’t able to execute,” said Harrison. “We’ve proven we’re a good team when we execute. We just have to learn from our mistakes in this game and keep getting better.”

The Indians entertain Massaponax in another non-conference game on Tuesday. North Stafford travels to Colonial Forge, also on Tuesday.

 

                            R H E

Stafford 0200 001 3 4 4

North Stafford 0143 00x 8 12 1

JOHN ROMANELLO, Jordan Atkins (3) and Taylor Bonney, Mike Sterne (4). AUSTIN MEYER and Ian Pape.

 

Steve Franzello: 540/374-5444

sfranzello@freelancestar.com

 

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