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Defense first for Centurions

GV strands nine total baserunners while succumbing to Saugus’ excellent pitching and fielding

Posted: April 2, 2009 1:25 a.m.
Updated: April 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Saugus head coach John Maggiora believes that defense is the backbone of a good baseball team.

Given his team’s victory over Golden Valley Wednesday, it’s hard to argue.

Zach Vincej made several excellent plays at shortstop, Kyle Hooper threw 1 1/3 solid innings in relief and Saugus got timely hitting in a 3-2 win over the Grizzlies at Saugus High School.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to play defense in our league games,” Maggiora said. “If you can pitch, play defense, get timely hitting, you’ll do all right, but it all starts with defense.”

The highlight of the game came with two down in the fourth and runners on second and third for Golden Valley.

Grizzlies leadoff hitter Jordan Yallen hit a shot between second and third, but Vincej soared to his right to snatch it out of the air and throw to first in time.

Saugus (5-4, 3-1) made several other plays in the field, and Golden Valley (4-6, 1-3) stranded nine baserunners.

“Good teams play good defense and good teams win close games, and that’s what they did,” said Golden Valley head coach Scott Drootin. “I’m taking my hat off to them.”

The Centurions roughed up Golden Valley starter Nick Rhoades in the first. Aaron Hooper drew a walk to start the game, and Vincej drew another walk two batters later. Brett Piper later drove in Hooper with a single, and Vincej scored on an error that also allowed Michael Soucy to reach first.

Rhoades settled down and pitched well for Golden Valley, but Soucy came up big again in the fifth inning. The Grizzlies elected to pitch around Piper to get to Soucy, who responded with a single off reliever Scott Barlow to plate Stefan Cordes.

“He’s a guy that’s been clutch all year,” Maggiora said of Soucy. “That wasn’t the first time he’s come through with bases loaded. He’s a gamer, so that situation does not faze him whatsoever.”

Golden Valley got on the board in the second thanks to a sacrifice fly by Yallen that drove in Rhoades.

After back-to-back singles by Rhoades and Brandon Smith in the sixth, Saugus reliever Tommy Kister hit Yallen with a pitch to load the bases.

Kyle Hooper then came in and gave up an RBI single to Chris Smith that scored Rhoades, but he induced a flyout to end the inning and struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh.

“It’s the game you live for, coming in, bases loaded, up by one run,” Hooper said. “It gives you confidence when you’ve got seven guys behind you that can field their positions. It makes it a lot easier to pitch.”

Saugus starter Darren Schweitzer pitched four innings of solid one-hit ball to earn the win, but he also walked four batters.

“We’d like Darren to start going deeper into games so we’re not using the whole staff,” Maggiora said.

Piper went 2-for-2 with the RBI and a walk to pace Saugus at the plate.

Rhoades finished 1-for-2 with the two runs to lead Golden Valley, and Rocky Sherwood doubled in the fifth for the game’s only extra-base hit.

“I’d like our guys to learn from (Saugus) how to take the field when the game’s on the line,” Drootin said. “That’s the best thing we can get out of watching their maturity. We’ll use that as an example.”

jgulino@the-signal.com

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