TURNER — Pitchers from both Rockland and Leavitt did some of their best work from the stretch during Wednesday’s KVAC baseball contest.
Unfortunately for Leavitt, Rockland was able to stretch its offensive opportunities out just a bit more.
Steve Widdecombe gutted out 6.2 innings of seven-hit ball before Billy Joyce finished the job by stranding the tying and winning runs on base as the Tigers held on for a 4-3 victory.
“Stevie’s gone through his battles over the last couple of years and he’s a warrior,” Rockland coach Joe Nelsen Sr. said. “Any time you ask him to take the mound he’ll take it. I’ve got to make sure I get him out of there in time because he’d pitch 200 innings if he could. He’s pitched one inning in the last eight days with all the rain we’ve had, so he was ready.”
Rockland’s three-run fifth proved to be the difference, although it missed a few chances to put Leavitt away.
The Tigers (8-3) loaded the bases with one out in the fifth and took the lead on Joe Nelsen Jr.’s two-run single. Jake Perry followed with an RBI single to make it 4-2, but Nelsen was thrown out at third for the second out. Back-to-back singles that would have added to the lead merely loaded the bases again, and Hornet reliever Tyler Hutchinson prevented further damage by getting J.T. Tobin on a force-out at home plate.
Rockland pounded out a dozen hits, but strong Leavitt defense and clutch pitching by Josh Bunker, Tim Dow, Hutchinson and Matt Bilodeau prevented the Tigers from putting more crooked numbers on the board. The Tigers only got one run after loading the bases to start the game against Bunker and had another potential run cut down at the plate in the fourth on a strong relay throw by Bilodeau from behind second base. Dow made a nice diving stop to double-up a lead-off runner at first in the third.
“I’m pleased with the way our pitchers did. They came out and battled. That’s what I asked them to do today,” Leavitt coach Dave Bochtler said. “I knew that I was only going to throw Bunk three innings. I wanted maybe two out of Matt because we’ve got to play on Friday. And I thought Hutchinson came in and did a good job and Timmy did what we asked him. They’ve got some guys that can swing the bat over there. To keep them from crossing the plate a lot more, it required great defense.”
The Hornets (4-7) had their chances, too, but the Tigers also played solid defense. Leavitt made them pay for their only mistake, though, as Brian Bedard hustled home on a dropped third strike to tie the game at 1-1 in the third. Two batters later, Hutchinson made it 2-1 with a single to right that scored Zach Frost.
Widdecombe (six strikeouts, three walks, one hit batter) battled in and out of difficulty over the next three innings, stranding runners at second and third in the fourth, yielding an RBI single to Dow in the fifth that pulled the Hornets within one, and stranding Frost after a two-out double in the sixth.
He got the first two batters of the seventh before tiring and issuing back-to-back walks. Joyce came on and got Max Cloutier to pop out to second to end it.
“All I ask of the kids is to play like they did today,” Bochtler said. “This is the fourth game that we’ve lost where we’ve played this well, four of our seven losses.”
Dow and Jake Ouellette had two hits apiece to lead the Hornets. Joyce led the Tigers with three hits, while Widdecombe, Luke Morrill (two intentional walks) and Tony Campagnoli stroked two apiece.