STANDISH — Monmouth’s Cam Armstrong was perfect through the first five innings, and even after letting up his first base runner in the sixth, was dominant afterwards.

Armstrong’s performance on the mound was the catalyst of the second-seeded Mustangs’ 5-0 win over fourth-seeded Lisbon to clinch the Class C South regional baseball final at Larry Mahaney Diamond at St. Joseph’s College on Thursday afternoon. 

Monmouth will play in the Class C final at Larry Mahaney Diamond at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. It’s the the team’s first final appearance since 2001 when the Mustangs beat Van Buren 12-2 for the Class D title.

First-pitch strikes were key for the lone senior on Monmouth (16-3) as they were thrown in all but six Lisbon (16-3) at-bats. Armstrong tallied eight strikeouts in the win. 

Monmouth used the momentum from Armstrong’s 1-2-3 first inning and turned it into base runners and a first-inning run. Hayden Fletcher led off the bottom of the first inning by reaching on an error, followed by a single from Armstrong to put runners on the corners. Matt Marquis singled into right field to load the bases with one out, and Isaac Oliveira earned a walk to score Fletcher and give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead after an inning. 

“It was big,” Armstrong said of the early run. “It was really reassuring that you have insurance, an insurance run, so it makes me feel great, comfortable, and more relaxed and I was just going at it ever since.”

Armstrong kept his foot on the pedal, using just nine pitches to strike out two Lisbon batters and force a fly out in the second inning. 

In the bottom-half of the inning, Monmouth’s Manny Calder singled into left field two pitches after a pop fly in foul territory was misplayed by Lisbon, keeping Calder’s at-bat alive. Fletcher laid down a well-executed sacrifice bunt to move Calder to third after a stolen base and Armstrong was able to drive Calder home with a single, his second of three on the day. 

“We talked about scoring early,” Monmouth coach Eric Palleschi said. “Our philosophy is, ‘Win every inning.’ If we can win every inning we can’t lose the game. We try to score in every inning and today we scored three out of six, which isn’t bad. We like to run, put pressure on them and make the defense make plays. We got a couple breaks early and got a couple runs.”

Lisbon finished with a trio of three-pitch outs in the third inning, a running theme early for the Greyhounds. In the fourth, Armstrong set the Greyhounds down in just seven pitches. 

“We let some quality pitches go by on occasion but we hit the ball,” Lisbon coach Randy Ridley said. “We got the ball in play but they made plays and Armstrong pitched a heck of a game. … We weren’t getting deep in the count and if we saw a first pitch we attacked it. We missed those opportunities at the beginning of the game.”

Monmouth had a two-run lead but wanted more, so in the fourth inning the bats were able to come alive again against Greyhounds starting pitcher Mason Booker. 

Hunter Frost and Kyle Palleschi led the bottom of the fourth inning off with back-to-back walks, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Calder to give Fletcher two runners in scoring position. Fletcher drove a double into left-center field to score two runs and give Monmouth a 4-0 lead, followed by another Armstrong single that scored Fletcher to make it 5-0. 

“The biggest thing was in the fourth inning, the top of their lineup came out and Cam shut them down, 1-2-3, and then we came out and scored three, that was a huge moment and really kind of turned things around,” Eric Palleschi said.

“We were looking for the fastball,” Armstrong said of the team’s approach at the plate. “First-pitch fastball and drive it the other way. If you hit the ball things are going to happen in the field and we are fast, a really fast team. Our motto is, ‘Get on base and score.’ We are a really fast team and we are really dangerous on the bases.”

Lisbon changed pitchers in the fifth, bringing in Hunter Brissette in relief. Brissette pitched two perfect innings, striking out two batters in the process. 

“I’ve got three guys I consider an ace,” Ridley said. “I have (Brissette), Booker and (Nick) Ferrence. To me, I have three aces.”

Armstrong’s perfect game was lost in the sixth inning when Booker led off with a double, which was later followed by walks to Riley Turner and Brissette. Armstrong was able to escape the bases-loaded jam by forcing Neil LaRochelle to pop up in the infield. 

“I think we saw enough of Armstrong to make adjustments to what he was pitching,” Ridley said. “We started getting a little more aggressive at the plate than we were earlier in the game.”

Lisbon earned a single from Levi Tibbetts to kick off the seventh inning but the next three batters were sat down quickly to end the game.

After pitching just a couple innings his sophomore year and then losing his junior year to the COVID-19 pandemic, Palleschi had high expectations for Armstrong this season, but his senior surpassed them. 

“He has been the best all year,” Palleschi said. “He’s really grown exceptionally well. We just kind of follow and he leads by example… I knew he was capable of it but maybe not at this level. He’s really matured. He pitched a lot last summer in Junior Legion and he threw very well. Maybe not quite at the level he’s been at but we’ve had really high expectations for him.”


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