TOWNSEND - With its back against the wall, the North Middlesex bats opted to show up in a big way. Keyed by an early three-run homer, North Middlesex provided plenty of offensive spark and backed it up with good pitching and defense en route to a 9-1 victory over Barre in Game 2 of the Montachusett Senior Babe Ruth championship series at Rolfe W. Schoppe Memorial field Sunday.
The teams will square off in a winner-take-all Game 3, at a site and date yet to be determined.
"The kids have matured as the season has gone on," North Middlesex head coach Ken Brown said. "The younger guys have really come around. We've had production all through the lineup.
"Through these playoffs we've had five games in a very short time frame, so they're getting the repetitions now to make sure they get their game on. Some of these guys didn't play spring ball and it's difficult to get in a rhythm right away, but now they're getting in a rhythm. "
The camouflage-clad North Middlesex squad waste no time getting on the board. Matt Brown started the bottom of the first inning with a leadoff single then, following a groundout, Mark Canning drilled a single to center field to put a pair of runners on. Chris Canning then delivered a game changing blow when he drilled a line-drive, three-run homer to left field, putting North Middlesex up 3-0 in the blink of an eye.
"We've led in every game in the playoffs, and we scored in the first inning of every game in the playoffs," Ken Brown said. "The top of our order is fantastic. When you've got leadoff hitters like Matt Brown (and others) and the power of the Canning boys, with Chris (Canning) hitting home runs in back-to-back games now, that's just tremendous leadership and putting the game on (their) shoulders and getting us off to a good start."
North Middlesex starter Sam Ineson made the potent Barre bats look weak. Ineson pitched a complete game, allowing one run on six hits, while striking out six and walking four. He tallied six scoreless innings to start, which included escaping a bases-loaded jam in the second after giving up a couple of walks.
The camouflage fatigued slightly in the seventh, but held on to ensure minimal damage. "(Ineson) has matured tremendously this year," Ken Brown said. "He beat the No. 2 seed with a complete-game, 11-strikeout performance. This was exactly what we expected, and he wanted the ball. He told me he wanted the ball and he came out and threw strikes, and he's dominant." Dan Considine started the second inning with an infield hit.
After a stolen base, Tyler Godin moved him to third with a sacrifice bunt. During the next at-bat Considine sprinted home on a wild pitch to make it 4-0. T
he third inning shattered any hope for a Barre comeback. Billy Burns started the inning with a single to center field, then advanced to third on an error. The following at-bat proved critical when he was able to score on a wild pitch, which made it 5-0. Chris Canning walked after the first wild pitch of the inning, then scored on another wild pitch two batters later. With two outs and two more baserunners reaching on walks, No. 8 hitter Godin connected on a blooper to right field, which plated two more, making it a commanding 8-0 lead. "I think it's great from an emotional perspective to get out in front," Ken Brown said. "It gives your pitchers an opportunity to get out ahead. They have a tendency to not be so fine and go right after hitters."
An error allowed North Middlesex to get a baserunner in the fifth inning. Considine then stole second base, and was later driven in by an Ineson flare to left field, which capped off the team's scoring at nine runs.
After a leadoff walk in the seventh inning, Matt Newell doubled to center field to help Barre avoid a shutout.
"The bats weren't working," Barre head coach Scott Whitney said. "We had a couple of errors in the field, but I don't think they were that critical. But North Middlesex hit the ball, and Canning hit that home run, and that set us back on our heels, and it's how you recover from that stuff."