(Newburyport MA) Struggling along with a 3-10 record after their May 10th loss to Masco, any tournament plans were dreams of the highest order.
Needing seven straight wins to qualify for the post-season, the Clippers completed that remarkable accomplishment with a 3-0 victory over Essex Tech on Saturday afternoon.
Coach Mark Rowe said that his team’s approach changed after that 10th loss. “We talked in the dugout the next day and I told them that our chances of making the tournament were slim, but they weren’t none. We changed our focus to only the next game and not beyond it. We ended up beating several teams that had defeated us in our first meeting.”
Junior Casey McLaren didn’t do it all for the Clippers (10-10) today but he came close! He drove in Newburyport’s first two runs in the third inning with a triple to the fence in right center. On the mound he struck out nine, allowed only two hits, and started a 1-6-3 double play.
“When he (Casey) throws strikes, with his speed, he is going to put himself in a good spot,” said Coach Rowe. “Today he was dominant and overpowering.”
Essex Tech coach Jed Beauparlant agreed: “We ran into a pretty good pitcher today. He had us off balance.”
Casey told me afterwards, “My fastball was on and for part of the game I had a good curveball.”
The Clippers got an insurance run in the fifth inning. After Ken Hodge walked, the Hawks decided to intentionally walk Casey. Made sense since Casey had tripled in his previous at-bat while Tommy Greene (the next batter) had popped out twice. What made “sense” didn’t work out for ET, however, as Tommy laced a run-scoring single down the line in right.
The Hawks (7-12) had only four baserunners in the game and three of them were cut down on the bases. Andrew Fournier had ET’s first hit on a beautiful bunt in the third inning but was thrown out attempting to steal. Will Preshon was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning but later was taken out in the middle of a well-turned 1-6-3 double play. The killer for the Hawks was in their 6th when Ben Condon tripled to the fence with two outs. Four pitches later Ben thought that the count was 3-2 and when Chris Masta swung and missed Ben ran toward home thinking the inning was over. That miscue got him caught in a rundown in which he was tagged out by catcher Ken Hodge to end the inning. “You have to be mentally engaged,” said Coach Beauparlant afterwards. “He thought the count was 3-2.”
Coach Beauparlant liked the work of his freshman starter Jack Christianson. “That was a good experience for him. It was nice that his brother (seniorDylan) was the catcher.”
The Clippers left nine runners stranded and had four hits.
Senior Ken Hodge scored two runs for NHS.
Casey McLaren afterwards: “We’ve won seven in a row but every one has been a battle. Nothing was easy. We had to beat teams we had already lost to. I feel bad for whoever has to play us in the first round!”
Coach Rowe: “I’m very happy for the kids. They got to play today in front of a great crowd.”
Former NHS coach Bill Pettingill was in the house.
Weather? Over in Amesbury it rained three different times before the three o’clock start time. I came over after the third rain shower just to see if it might still be played. Arrived just before the first pitch. Had to scramble a bit to get this one covered but was glad to see the tourney-clincher.
Jed Beauparlant: “I’m proud of the way my guys battled after being eliminated from the playoffs last week.”
The tourney selections come out on Tuesday. Certainly the Clippers will be at the bottom of the seeding and will face one of the top seeds. As Casey suggested, that high seed could get more than they bargain for.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)