STANDISH – Winthrop’s defense knew what was coming.

“We practiced all week, to throw the ball up and in, either way get the ball up,” Ramblers’ catcher Jordan Conant said. “That way, they get the bunts up.”

It didn’t matter.

“They even knew what our signs were,” admitted St. Dom’s coach Bob Blackman after the game. “We were still able to execute the plays when we needed to.”

Five stolen bases, three hit-and-run plays, two sacrifice bunts and a suicide squeeze — all in the first three innings – set the tone as the Saints legged out a 6-1 win over Winthrop at St. Joseph’s College on Wednesday night.

“I’m so sick of that term, ‘small-ball,'” Winthrop coach Marc Fortin said. “Everything they tried worked, and every time we tried to get something going they took us right out of it.”

The Saints also cut down four Winthrop runners as they tried to scamper around the bases, adding to the Ramblers’ frustrations.

“We practice against it all the time,” St. Dom’s second-baseman Casey Parker said. “It makes it easier on us to defend it, because we see it every day.”

No better example was there Wednesday of the Saints’ willingness to gamble a bit than in the first inning. With Winthrop’s defense relaxed as St. Dom’s pitcher Andy Allen stood in the batter’s box with a 1-2 count in the first inning, Blackman again flashed the bunt sign, and sent Parker into home on a suicide squeeze play.

Allen connected with the high-and-outside pitch and sent the ball dribbling between the pitcher and first base. So stunned were the infielders that not only was Parker safe at home, but Allen beat the bobbled throw to first, too.

“I’ve never seen someone bunt with two strikes on a suicide squeeze, come on,” Fortin said. “We knew that’s all they do, though.”

Conant found it tough to be always on his toes. As a catcher, he was routinely in the play on defense, fielding bunts and firing the ball to second on steal attempts.

“I was so tense. I was absolutely just throwing my arm out,” Conant said.

But just when the Ramblers thought they’d figured out the Saints’ attack, things changed – again.

Aaron Allen led off the top of the sixth inning with a towering fly ball to center that fell for a double after Winthrop fielder Tyler Cobb lost the ball in the lights. Joe Bonneau bunted Aaron Allen to third, and then with the infield drawn in and Parker at the plate, the diminutive second-baseman lined a shot over the third-baseman’s head to drive in another run.

“We’re not just one-dimensional – we have to remember that,” St. Dom’s coach Allan Turgeon. “We can hit the ball with the best of them when we have to.”

“In the Livermore game, we had to play long-ball with them to stay in the game,” Blackman pointed out. “And we did that, too.”

And it’s hard enough to execute a steady routine of bunts and stolen bases when no one knows what you’re doing.

But when everyone in the stands, along the fences and even in the other dugout knows exactly what you are going to do every time, the pressure mounts.

But perhaps not on the Saints.

“When they know what you’re going to do, the pressure is on them to make the plays, knowing it’s coming,” Blackman said. “We just do what we do all the time, so there isn’t as much pressure on us.”


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