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LITTLETON — In the quest to get above the .500 mark, the Ayer baseball team turned to their ace and he delivered. On Monday afternoon, the Panthers rode a strong performance by John Shivo to defeat Littleton 4-2 in a game that was played under protest.

The controversy came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Pinch-hitter Andrew Derry came on to hit for Will Zimmerman in the sixth inning, but was left at the plate when the third out was recorded at home. Zimmerman re-entered the game and played defense in the top of the seventh, but Derry took the plate in the seventh and delivered a lead-off single. After it was brought to the umpire’s attention and a conference call ended, Derry was ruled out, and the Tigers did not recover.

While the Derry play was important, it was Shivo who was brilliant. The junior right-hander fired a complete game, allowing no earned runs and three hits while walking three and striking out 13. After a shaky first inning in which 13 of his 25 pitches were balls, Shivo was efficient, throwing 61 of his final 92 pitches for strikes.

”John was big on the hill for us today,” said Ayer coach Jim Welch. “He did a nice job of settling down after the first and found a groove. Also, Will Comerford did a nice job calling the game behind the plate. They worked well together.”

Shivo struck out the side in the second frame, but his defense let him down in the third as the Tigers tied the contest. With one out, Greg Hodlin reached on an error and advanced to second on an errant throw. Drew Davis followed with a single and stole second before Tom Page reached on an error that allowed both runners to score, knotting the game at 2-2.

Ayer answered right back with a single run in the fourth to regain the advantage. Dan Quin, Pinard and Jon Minnich all walked with one out to load the bases. Comerford followed by reaching on a fielder’s choice that scored Quin and gave the Panthers the lead.

After the third inning, Shivo settled back into a groove, retiring eight in a row before finding trouble in the sixth. Mike Dargin doubled to lead off the inning and with one out Devin Crory drew a walk. After a groundout moved both runners up a base, Derry was called on to pinch hit. On a 1-1 pitch, Shivo put a ball in the dirt that went to the backstop. The ball took a perfect bounce to Comerford who flipped to Shivo for the third out, ending the threat.

In the top of the seventh, Ayer added to its lead. With one out, Comerford walked and Jon Bollinger followed with a long RBI triple to left. Derek Migrants was intentionally walked and stole second to put two runners in scoring position, but Page escaped the jam without further damage, recording a popout and a groundout.

Needing a spark, Littleton called upon Derry again and he came through with a single, but was ruled out due to a substitution rule. Shivo then got a pop out for the second out, but Hodlin kept the Tigers alive with a single. With the tying run at the plate, Shivo came through and recorded a strikeout to end the game and move the Panthers to 5-4 on the season.

”Jon came up with a big hit for us in the seventh and Josh got things started for us offensively with his single,” said Welch. “Minus a small gap, our defense was pretty solid, we could’ve used a couple of more hits with runners in scoring position, but we got the win.”

Bollinger paced the offense with a triple, double and a run-batted-in. Pinard added a walk, two singles and two RBI. Quin had a pair of walks and a run scored, while Comerford walked, scored a run and drove in a run.

Hodlin led Littleton with a walk, single, run scored and two stolen bases. Davis had a single and run scored while Dargin chipped in a walk and a double.