Londonderry pitcher Jake Finnegan struck out 13 Spaulding batters to lead the Lancers to a 3-1 victory Friday night in the regular season finale for both squads. Finnegan gave up just 2 hits on the evening, and Londonderry got all 3 of their runs in the top of the first inning for the win. The Lancers finish their regular season with a 14-5 record. It was a great night for a game and there were two winning teams were going at it.
Finnegan was very impressive, especially as the game went on. He was a little shaky early, walking 5 batters and giving up 2 hits in the first 3 innings. But he settled down big time and retired 13 straight hitters to end the ballgame. Finnegan was dominant towards the end of the game, striking out 8 batters in the last 3 innings. His fastball was in the mid-80's the entire game, and even touched 90 MPH on a couple pitches. The 6'2" lefthander showed an overpowering fastball, and a solid curveball, although he didn't use it very often. He did move the plate very well though, mixing things up between inside pitches, high, away, etc. He definitely did have some control issues over the first 3 innings however. Overall a very good performance for Finnegan, who has a scholarship to play at Umass-Lowell next year and is a potential Major League pitching prospect.
Key Point in the Game
I mentioned Finnegan had some control issues early in the game. The best chance for a Red Raider rally came in the bottom of the 3rd. At the time it was 3-1 Londonderry. Finnegan walked three batters in the inning, and it was bases loaded with 2 outs. Not only that, but Spaulding had one of their best hitters at the plate in Tyler Thurber. Thurber, a 6'5" senior had already hit 2 grand slams on the season. This was a very good chance for Spaulding to either tie or take the lead. Then on the first pitch of the at-bat, the runner on third base Logan Zriny attempted to steal home. Finnegan threw the ball to catcher Geoffrey Fisher who then tagged Zriny out for the final out of the inning. The play at the plate wasn't even close. A very questionable call by Spaulding to send the runner and take the bat out of one of their top hitters. The thinking must have been that when you're facing one of the state's top pitcher's if you want to score runs you need to manufacture them and that means doing things like stealing bases, bunting, etc.
Spaulding Pitching Was Also Key
Ok, I've discussed Finnegan and his pitching performance enough. The Spaulding pitching also played a large role in this contest. I already mentioned how all 3 of the Londonderry runs came right off the bat, in the first inning (oh yes, that pun WAS intended!). Plus the Lancers would have probably scored 4 runs in the inning instead of 3, but leadoff hitter Daniel Lagasse got thrown out trying to steal second base by Spaulding catcher Tyler Poisson. The thing is, those runs all came with Red Raider starting pitcher Chris Tilton on the mound. Tilton walked three and allowed 2 hits on the inning.
After the first inning however, Spaulding replaced Tilton on the mound with sophomore Bobby Dow. Dow pitched excellent in relief, going the game's final 6 innings and allowing 0 runs, just 1 hit, he struck out 7 and walked just 2. Dow was very effective. Like Finnegan, he also got into the 80's with his fastball, throwing it by people and changing locations.
The question that anyone who was at that game last night has to have is this: How would the game have turned out if Dow had started the game? He went 6 innings of relief, but surely he could have gone a seventh inning. In his 6th inning of work, Dow had a 1-2-3 inning and struck out 2. If he started the game instead of Tilton, there's no doubt in my mind that he could have gone a complete game. He could have possibly thrown a shutout, which would have meant that Spaulding would have won this game 1-0. Dow vs. Finnegan, what a pitching duel that what have been!
So there were 2 decisions by Spaulding that definitely had a large effect on the outcome of this ballgame. One was the decision to start Tilton instead of Dow. And the other was the decision to have Zriny attempt to steal home in the 3rd inning. Different decisions in these situations would have likely resulted in a different baseball game.
Now having said that, this game really didn't mean a whole lot to Londonderry. Regardless of whether they won or lost, the Lancers were going to be the #3 seed in the Class L tournament. Considering that fact, you might be surprised that Londonerry had their ace pitcher on the mound. But the Class L prelims don't start until next Thursday, giving the Lancers the luxury of pitching Finnegan in this game and having him back on Thursday on 5 days of rest which is ideal.
As for Spaulding, this game meant a lot. If they won they would have been the #8 seed in the tournament, and hosted a first round playoff game. Instead they lost, and now will be the #9 seed and have to play on the road in the prelims. Not only that, but last night was also Senior Night for Spaulding. So you know the seniors would have liked to win this one, especially against a team as good as Londonderry. It really would have given them some momentum heading into the tournament.
Senior Night for Spaulding
Speaking of Spaulding's Senior Night, I was impressed with the senior night festivities at Bert George Field. It was a great night for a game, Spaulding has a very nice baseball field, they were playing music before the game and a sea of red shirts filled the bleachers. Best of all, Spaulding did their senior players justice by honoring them very nicely in front of all of their parents and fans. One by one they called out each Red Raider senior, announcing their parent's names, college plans and favorite moment as a member of the Spaulding baseball team. It was a nice ceremony. They also honored the Londonderry seniors which was a nice gesture.
The following Spaulding seniors were honored:
Tyler Poisson (SNHU)
Matt Grenier (Becker College)
Aaron Snow (New England College)
Corey Michel (Lasalle)
Tyler Thurber (Plymouth State)
Interesting Nugget of Info
As you can see above, the Spaulding baseball team has 8 seniors. The Spaulding football team this past season had just 4 seniors. High school football teams generally have about 3 times as many players as a high school baseball team. So the fact that Spaulding has twice as many seniors on the baseball team as they do on the football team is VERY telling!
Other Notes from the Game
Senior catcher Tyler Poisson had a nice game in his final home game for Spaulding. He threw out two runners attempting to steal bases. He also had one of the two Red raider hits on the game, a hard hit base knock to right field.
Londonderry's C.J. Flanders walked and scored a run in the 1st inning, and also made a few very nice plays at first base, especially when scooping the ball out of the dirt on throws by other infielders.
The biggest hit of the game came off the bat of Londonderry outfielder Daniel Kinnon.
I've talked a lot in this write-up about the dominance on the mound by Finnegan and Dow. It should also be noted that the home plate umpire at this game had a VERY wide strike zone. There were 20 combined strikeouts between the two teams. Part of it was because the effectiveness of the two pitchers. But part of it was the wide strike zone of the umpire, no question about it. To be fair, he was calling it wide but he was calling it the same for both teams. If you were a batter in this game though, if you weren't going up there ready to swing the bat you were going to be headed back to the dugout in a hurry.
In my game write-up for the Portsmouth vs. St. Thomas game 2 weeks ago I talked about how the star hitter for Portsmouth, Mike Montville received the "Barry Bonds Treatment" by getting walked every time he stepped to the plate. Jake Finnegan received similar, but not as pronounced treatment last night. In the St. Thomas game, Montville was walked all four times he was up, with 2 of them being intentional. Last night against Spaulding, Finnegan was walked all three times he came to the plate. None of them were intentional however.