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Lehman’s in charge as Crusaders squeeze past Westboro in rematch


Groton-Dunstable 3

Westboro 2

’Our second games against Gardner and Westboro show the heart that our kids have.’ – Matt LeBlanc, Groton-Dunstable baseball coach

GROTON — There may be no easier way to guage a team’s progress than to check out their performance in their second time around the league. If that is the case, the Groton-Dunstable baseball team is progressing nicely.

The Crusaders made it two consecutive wins against MidWach B teams who dispatched them earlier in the season, with a taut 3-2 win over Westboro on Wednesday afternoon. That victory followed up a win over highly-touted Gardner and improved the Crusaders to 8-5 for the season, including 3-4 in MidWach B.

”Our second games against Gardner and Westboro show the heart that our kids have,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Matt LeBlanc. “We didn’t hit the ball well today, but Vince Lehman pitched well and we executed when we had to.”

Lehman earned the victory with a route-going effort. The hard-throwing righthander allowed only three hits, but was forced to work hard because of nine walks. But more than often he was up to the task, allowing just a single earned run.

Lehman had to be good because Westboro starting pitcher Alex Dion was also tough, allowing two earned runs and three hits over 5 1/3 innings.

Doug Starbird was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on Chris Chenelle’s sacrifice bunt. The Westboro defense erased the lead runner when Lehman grounded back to Dion, but Groton-Dunstable clean-up hitter Steve Carroll sliced a drive to deep left that wasn’t handled as Lehman came all the way around to score to make it 1-0.

Lehman helped his own cause by picking off a runner off second base in the top of the second and pitched out of a jam in the third, but Dion tossed goose eggs in both innings and the game rolled into the fourth still a 1-0 affair.

The Rangers ran themselves out of a chance to tie the game in the top of the fourth. Dion walked with two outs and hustled to third when Jeff Reynolds slashed a single to right. Reynolds stole second, but the Crusaders fired the ball to third base and tagged Dion out in a rundown for the final out.

Westboro drew even in the fifth. With one out, Sean Pruell reached on a two-base throwing error and scored on Kyle Garry’s single.

The Crusaders threatened to regain the lead in the bottom of the inning when Frank DiMaria and Starbird walked, but Chenelle’s hard line drive was right at Westboro center fielder Kevin Kinnard for the second out. When Dion got a pop-up for the final out, it was 1-1 heading to the sixth.

Lehman breezed through the top of the sixth, getting help from catcher Rick Fotino, whose strong and accurate throw nailed a basestealer at second base, and the Crusaders used ‘small ball’ in the bottom of the inning to take the lead.

With one out, walks to Moniz and Mike Fei, sandwiched around a single by Fotino, loaded the bases. DiMaria laid down a perfect squeeze bunt up the first base line and Moniz beat the flip to the plate to make it 2-1. When Dan Callahan’s groundout plated Fotino the Crusaders led 3-1.

Westboro didn’t go quietly in the top of the seventh. Reynolds and Fran Whitten walked to open the inning, and advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. Pruell grounded out to shortstop, scoring Reynolds to make it 3-2. Garry then lined a shot to center fielder Starbird, whose strong throw arrived to the plate on the fly to hold Whitten at third. After Rouleau walked to put runners on the corners, Lehman grabbed a one-hopper back to the mound and fired to first to seal the deal.

”Frank DiMaria came up with a big play with his squeeze bunt,” said LeBlanc. “He has been struggling at the plate but managed to come through. Vince got into some trouble but he made big pitches when he had to.”

Starbird in center field and Carroll at first base both turned in strong defensive efforts for the Crusaders.