CUMBERLAND — Just before Cumberland High hosted St. Raphael Academy in a critical Division I-North tilt on Thursday afternoon, the two squads stood on their respective baselines and watched Sue Lanctot, a Cumberland resident and two-time breast cancer survivor, throw out the first pitch.
The touching moment drew a hefty round of applause, and for good reason: The contest had been set up weeks ago to benefit the American Cancer Society. Both players and coaches had purchased special, blue-and-white “Strike Out Cancer” caps to wear, at $15 each.
The Clippers raised approximately $600, while the Saints gleaned $465.
While Cumberland notched the win in that category, it failed to do so on the diamond.
Junior southpaw Andrew Veiga scattered eight hits and four walks while whiffing nine to give SRA a stellar – and easy – 12-2 triumph at Tucker Field.
Veiga also helped himself at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a double, two RBI and a run scored. Actually, four others notched a pair of hits, including seniors Nick Gagnon (2-for-3, two RBI, run), Henry Mota (2-for-4, two RBI, three runs) and Julian Diaz (2-for-3, run); and junior Nick Karalekas (2-for-4, RBI, run).
“That was his first win of the season; he pitched great,” noted Saints’ skipper Tom Sorrentine of Veiga, who improved to 1-3 on the spring. “This was a ‘break-out’ game for him. This is when he became a pitcher as opposed to a thrower. His location was outstanding, he set the hitters up and he just made the pitches he had to make.
“He kept those guys off-balance all day, which isn’t easy,” he added. “They go up there ready to rip, so they don’t get cheated. They take their hacks at the ball.”
Despite the victory, which raised the Saints’ league mark to 6-10, Sorrentine indicated his team must “win out” just for a prayer of clinching a playoff berth. They’ll take on Mount St. Charles today at Vets Park, then host Lincoln next Tuesday.
“There’s no guarantee we’ll make it; we need both just to stand a shot of making (the state tournament),” he said. “We’re starting to hit our stride now, with back-to-back wins, but we have to continue to take every game as a playoff game. We’ve got to win both.”
Cumberland fell to 8-8, and skipper Paul Murphy now is worried about his own contingent earning a tourney bid.
SRA posted a pair in the top of the first off of junior left Dylan Boisclair, who walked leadoff batter Tom Calabro and then hit Zach Mitsmenn with a pitch. Junior Nick Karalekas followed with a bloop hit to right to load the bags, and Calabro raced home on Mota’s fielder’s choice.
With Mitsmenn at third, Cumberland senior backstop Matt Billington attempted to pick him off, but the throw flew wide of the bag, and he trotted home.
The Clippers filled the bases in the back half, but senior tri-captain Justin Patrick’s half-swing chopper to third allowed Gagnon to throw out senior Ryan Harris at the plate. With the bags still juiced, Veiga struck out Joe Fine to end the threat.
It seemed as if Murphy’s crew would get on the board in the second, especially after junior Peter Travers punched a double deep to left-center. A perfect relay throw from shortstop Karalekas, however, got Travers trying to stretch it into a triple.
As bad luck would have it, both Boisclair and Jacob Keefe roped singles down the left-field line, but Harris grounded to Veiga, who threw to second to get Keefe. Karalekas’ relay to first was dropped by Nick Cesino, but he gathered it and fired to catcher Mota.
It appeared Boisclair had beaten the throw, as his right spike was on the plate, but home-plate umpire John Keegan immediately issued the “out” sign,” and the Saints squelched another possible flurry.
Sorrentine’s bunch manufactured another trio in the third to cushion its lead at 5-0. Boisclair hit leadoff batter Mistmenn, who stole second and scored on Veiga’s two-bagger to right-center (though he was thrown out at third). Mota walked, Diaz followed with another double and both were plated on Gagnon’s double to the left-center hole.
After the hit, Murphy replaced Boisclair (who yielded four hits, five runs, four earned and three walks while fanning a trio) with righty Max Carlsten, who got Ricky Vichroski to ground to short.
The Saints tallied three more in the fifth off of reliever Rob Reddy, who walked leadoff Karalekas and balked him to second. Veiga then drilled a hit to left, but Harris allowed it to bounce past him, and Karalekas rushed home. Mota’s double over Harris’ head (he slipped while coming in) plated Veiga, while Gagnon’s opposite-field hit to right brought in Mota.
Trailing 8-0, Cumberland finally posted a run in the bottom half when Keefe singled, moved to second on Harris’ infield hit, tagged to third on Greg Joubert’s fly to right and scored on Christian Spader’s single to right.
SRA sent 10 to the plate to register four more in the seventh. Mota scored on Vichroski’s sacrifice fly; Gagnon, who reached on a fielder’s choice, ran home on a wild pitch; and Karalekas and Veiga whacked RBI hits to right-center.
Cumberland recorded its lone run in the back half when Keefe drew a lead walk and scored on Spader’s two-out triple to left.
“We made some big plays defensively,” Sorrentine offered. “They could’ve had a couple of big innings, but we stepped it up. The big play was getting (Boisclair) at the plate (in the second), and we also cut down (Travers) at third.”
Stated Murphy: “That was great, seeing Sue throw out the first pitch. The American Cancer Society is definitely a worthy cause. Everyone is affected by cancer, whether it’s a grandfather, parent, uncle, aunt, brother, sister or friend. Everyone knows someone who has it, survived it or died from it, and we were glad to do this in conjunction with ‘Saar’ (Tom Sorrentine).
“I would’ve been even nicer to win,” he added with a sigh. “What’s so disappointing is we got guys on base, and things would’ve been different if we had a few timely hits. A couple of guys were thrown out on the bases, and that didn’t help, either, but that’s not why we lost the game. We’ve just been up and down lately; we’re on a roller-coaster, and I’ve been telling the guys for four or five weeks we need to be more consistent entering the playoffs.
“Now we’ll have to win the next two just for a chance.”