LUNENBURG -- Lunenburg dug itself an early hole for the second straight game of the Montachusett Senior Babe Ruth Championship series. The Knights trailed 4-0 to start the game and couldn't manufacture enough offensive to catch up, as ASH clinched the title with a 9-3 victory Tuesday night at Marshall Park.
ASH, a team comprised of players from Ayer, Shirley, Harvard and Littleton, secured its fourth straight title by winning the first two games of the best-of-three series. ASH won game 1 on Monday by a 5-0 margin.
"They took advantage of every mistake that we made out there," Lunenburg manager Jim Basile said. "We really couldn't get that big inning. ASH is a good team and they played the better game these two days."
"The games we won against St. Bernard's and North Middlesex (in the playoffs) we had a lead and could play with the lead," Basile continued. "With our offense, it's kind of hard to come back. We play small ball, and it's hard to do that when you're down four runs."
All the production that ASH needed came in the top half of the first inning. Ryan Pichel started the game with a lead-off triple, then Steve Smith (3 for 4, 2 RBI) got a single to drop in right field that made it 1-0. Three batters later, Smith scored on a passed ball, which made it a 2-0 ASH advantage. Later in the inning with two runners on, Steve Mulone (3 for 3, 3 RBI) drilled a double to the fence in right field that plated two, including the eventual game winning run as ASH
"It's always been what we've tried to do, jump out early," ASH manager Lou Macri said. "Take the other team off their game. When we do that we usually win, we have decent pitching. It makes the other team slow getting out of the box because they know they have to play catch up against us."
Lunenburg answered in the bottom half of the first. John Hinsley singled then took second on an error. Two batters later, Jim Broden came through with a flare down the left field foul line, which drove home Hinsley and got the Knights to within 4-1.
ASH kept on the accelerator in the second inning. The Titans had two runners on with two outs when Peter Knowles reached on an error, which plated Nick Benullo and extended the lead to four. David Oslin kept the streak going when he connected on an RBI-single to left field which made it 6-1.
The top of the ASH lineup brought more problems for Lunenburg in the fourth. Pichel singled and later took third on two errors. Smith then connected on his second RBI-single of the game that made it a comfortable 7-1 lead.
"We ran really well on the bases," Macri said. "We capitalized on a few errors, which was a turning point in the game. We got extra runs across and I think that was huge."
Lunenburg made a bid in the latter half of the fourth to get back in it. A pair of walks to start seemed to bode well for the Knights, then following two outs, Josh Swain drew a walk to load the bases. Jeff Kerr capitalized when he contributed a two-run opposite field single that plated Jim Basile Jr. and Broden making it 7-3.
ASH squashed any hope of a comeback a half-inning later. Luke Snyder doubled to start the inning, then following a strikeout, Mulone doubled to right pushing the lead to five. Adam Gagnon walked next, and both he and Mulone stole bases to get into scoring position. On a grounder on the next play, the Lunenburg infielder opted to go home but threw the ball away allowing Mulone to score the ninth ASH run. Gagnon rounded third and was thrown out at the plate.
"(Kerr's at-bat) was a hit that I thought would bring us back into it," Jim Basile said. "Unfortunately we gave them two right back the next inning. I told the kids that I couldn't remember the last time Lunenburg made it this for, and it's a credit to them for doing it. We just got beat by a better team."