TOWNSEND -- Defending Montachusett Senior League champion North Middlesex came into Tuesday afternoon's clash with Groton at Ralph E. Schoppe Memorial Field looking to move to .500 on the season.
The Patriots used a three-run third inning to spur them to a 7-1 victory. Class of 2013 North Middlesex Regional High School graduate Kevin Powell picked up a baseball for the first time in over a year, as North Middlesex manager Jim Canning gave him the starting nod.
Kevin Powell enlisted in the Army out of high school and is currently active duty. He went one inning of shutout baseball allowing just two hits.
It's only fitting that North Middlesex's jerseys are camouflage.
"Ever since I returned from Fort Irwin (Calif.), I have wanted to just play baseball," Powell said. "I just came out here and expected to play. It is really cool to be able to play on the same team as my little brother, Chris, who is three years younger than me... Hopefully, I will be able to play again before I head back to California next Thursday."
The right-handed Kevin loaded the bases allowing back-to-back singles to Groton's Matt Naughton and Brendan Meyers. Tim Colantuoni reached on an error to the left side, but Kevin worked his way out of the jam by getting a force out at the plate.
He caused the next batter to ground into an inning ending 6-4-3 double play.
Groton-Dunstable starting pitcher Kyle Priest gave up a single to Chris Powell and a double to Nick Barry in the home half of the first.
However, Powell and Barry were left stranded at second and third as he shutdown the next two batters to retire the side with the score locked at 0-0.
The Crusaders got one run back in the second inning off Barry, who came on in relief of Kevin Powell.
Groton's Ben Strauss roped a double to the gap in right center field, and would later score on a 6-3 fielder's choice by Kevin Connerty. Barry rung up a pair of strikeouts to get his team out of the inning with the damage limited to one run.
North Middlesex's offense came to life in the home half of the third inning. The Patriots plated three runs on four hits in the inning to take a 3-1 lead. Dylan Ricker, Chris Powell and Barry all belted hits in the inning and all came across to score. Mike Wolfgang narrowly reached on a fly ball to shallow left center field, but Naughton sprawled out to make the diving catch behind his shortstop position.
Kevin Costello's deep drive to the gap in left field resulted in one of the Patriots' three runs in the inning.
North Middlesex continued to effectively strike the ball in the later innings, adding one more run in the fourth inning on an RBI double to left field by Ricker. Barry was lights out for the Patriots, pitching six full innings of shutout baseball, striking out five, while allowing just two hits. Zack Ryan made a web gem caliber play in the third inning as he slid behind his position at third and tossed out the runner from his knees.
Sam Ineson came on to close the game in the bottom of the seventh and did not disappoint as he struck out the final two batters to lock up the win.
"We have a young group," Groton manager Tom Saraceno said. "They get down on themselves early when they see a good seasoned group of guys. All we have are freshman, sophomores and juniors. It is good for them to see competition like this."
Strauss led the Crusaders at the dish going 2-for-3 with a run scored.
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