(Georgetown MA) Newburyport was desperate for a win.
After an impressive 9-1 month of May, June turned into a problem.
After an early win in June, three straight losses had followed, most recently, a 12-1 nightmare loss to North Reading.
Before that NR disaster had been a tough 7-2 defeat this past Wednesday to Triton. A game in which Jack Fehlner came in to give relief and suffered through a five-run outburst by the Vikings.
Fast forward to this afternoon. Again, it was Triton and again it was Jack Fehlner doing the pitching.
But what a difference this time!
Today, Jack pitched a four-hit, complete-game shutout as the Clippers downed Triton, 5-0, to take home the championship trophy in the Spofford Tournament.
“After that loss to Triton, the team gave me some great words of encouragement,” said Jack post-game, “that really helped.”
Jack’s pitching was probably enough to make him the tourney MVP but when he added a home run in the seventh inning the guesswork ended.
“Jack’s homer wasn’t a surprise to me,” said Newburyport coach Mark Rowe. “He hits bombs in practice.”
Through three innings, Jack allowed only one baserunner while Triton starter DJ Watson allowed just one hit (Luke Stallard).
The Clippers bats came to life in the fourth inning.
A single (Luke Stallard) and a walk (Jax Budgell) set up Newburyport’s leading hitter (Jake Buontempo) for an RBI single to left.
Jake took second without a throw and senior Tony Lucci followed with a two-run double to right center.
“It was an outside pitch,” recalled Tony. “Coach (Rowe) always tells us to take that one to rightfield and that’s what I did.”
Triton (7-7) threatened to cut into Newburyport’s 3-0 lead in the fifth inning.
Andrew Masher and Griffin Dupuis executed a perfect hit-and-run to put runners on first and third with two outs in that inning. Jack Fehlner, however, was able to get a strikeout to get out of it.
The Clippers (11-4) added another run in the sixth as Jake Buontempo hit a long home run over the leftfield fence.
“I was down 0-2,” said Jake. “I had seen two curveballs. I choked up a little bit like I always do and got a nice curveball and ripped it.”
The Vikings were back threatening in the sixth inning. Consecutive singles by Brady Lindholm and Cael Kohan set up Triton with one out. After a flyball out to left, Ryan Lindholm hit a flare into short left. It had trouble written all over it! But Newburyport shortstop Tony Lucci ran straight back for it and caught it in true snow-cone fashion to end the inning and save a run.
“The catch by Tony was awesome,” said Jack Fehlner. “It was such a clutch play.”
“I was a bit nervous going after it, but I ran as fast as I could to make the catch,” said Tony.
Jack finished off the final Triton inning with consecutive strikeouts.
“Jack came in determined after they got to him the other day,” said Coach Rowe. “He felt that he had something to prove today.”
Triton coach Ryan McCarthy: “Both teams hit the ball hard today. I thought that the Fehlner kid pitched a great game today. We hit him hard the other day, but he bounced back.”
Nick White: “It was a nice bounce-back win. We’ve been struggling lately.”
Coach Rowe: “We were kind of on our heels after the last few games, but we had a long talk yesterday and had a good practice.”
There was some uncertainty on Jack Fehlner’s homer in the seventh inning. “I wasn’t sure it was out,” said Jack, “until their shortstop told me.”
Jack Fehlner: “My two-seam fastball was working really well.”
Triton had seven infield groundouts.
Newburyport last won the Spofford Tournament in 2018.
Triton’s last one was in 2012.
Generous donations announced pre-game to help the family of a firefighter who is battling cancer.
I learned from Coach McCarthy that the post-season tournament will only be for the North title. He also thought that the tournament had to end by July 1st.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)