CUMBERLAND — Cumberland’s inability to get the big hit on Tuesday afternoon cost the Clippers an opportunity to pick up a big win.
The Clippers stranded 10 runners on base – five of them in scoring position – and saw La Salle use a three-run uprising in the top of the third inning and some strong pitching from Caleb Gardner to produce a 4-1 victory at Tucker Field.
The Rams, who are 10-1 in Division I-North play (and in second place behind unbeaten Bishop Hendricken) and have now won eight in a row, didn’t need a big hit to take their 3-0 lead off Cumberland starter Rob Reedy.
After a walk to No. 9 batter Connor Weathers, a ground single up the middle from Noah Gemma, and a fielder’s choice grounder by Reece Martilli loaded the bases with no outs, Reedy uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Weathers to score.
North Smithfield native C.J. Dandeneau then smacked a grounder to first baseman Dylan Boisclair, who fielded it and fired the ball to the plate, but his throw pulled catcher Matt Bare off the plate and Gemma was able to slide home safely. Three pitches later, Chris Ballirano capped the rally by driving in Martilli with a sacrifice fly to left.
That support was more than enough for Gardner, who worked the first 6 2/3 innings, but got into some late trouble in the seventh and needed Andrew Mulvey to record the final out. Gardner scattered seven hits, walked three, and hit two batters with pitches, but also struck out four and recorded 12 groundball outs.
The Clippers produced their run in that final inning on a run-scoring double by Boisclair, but before that, they had their share of chances to break on the board.
In the third, they put runners on first and second with one gone, only to watch a nicely-turned 4-6-3 double play by the Rams end that inning, and in the sixth, they left runners stranded on the corners.
Dandeneau, the Rams’ centerfielder, also made a nice play to end the fourth by throwing out Pete Travers trying to go from first and third on a sharp single by Josh Brodeur lined into the gap in left-center field.
The Rams made it a 4-0 contest in the sixth on a two-out line single to left by Weathers that drove in pinch-runner Broderick Santilli, who replaced catcher Alex Howard on the basepaths (after he blooped a one-out single to left) and promptly stole second base.
In the home half of the seventh, Gardner quickly recorded the first two outs, but then he hit Tyler Calabro with a pitch and surrendered Boisclair’s opposite-field double that one-hopped the fence in left and finally put the Clippers on the board.
Gardner’s day was done a batter later after he walked Joe Fine to send the tying run to the plate, but La Salle head coach Geoff Marcone brought in Mulvey to smother the fire, and he did so by striking out Bare to finish the game.
Reedy ended up going 5 2/3 innings in his outing, allowing six of the Rams’ seven hits in the game, and reliever John Sikie retired four of the five batters he faced.
The Clippers also turned in a pair of nice defensive plays to end innings. In the fifth, with runners on second and third and one gone, Ballirano lofted a fly ball to right fielder Jake Keefe. Martilli, the runner on third, tried to tag up and score on the out, but Keefe fired a one-hop strike to the plate to nab him.
And with two outs in the sixth, a run home, and runners on first and second, Martilli hit a sinking liner to center that centerfielder Nick Provost gloved with a diving catch.
Weathers, who reached base in all three of his plate appearances, and Dandeneau, who ripped a double to left in the fifth, each collected two hits for La Salle, and Boisclair and Keefe also produced multiple hits for the Clippers.
The Clippers, who rolled into the game with wins in four of their last five games, fell to 5-6 in the league and 7-6 overall. They will face Hendricken at home on Friday at 4 p.m.