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Fitchburg 9

Ayer-Shirley-Harvard 1

SHIRLEY — It is amazing just how simple baseball can be sometime.

Fitchburg traveled to Shirley and owned edges in every department as they rolled to a 9-1 win over the Ayer-Shirley-Harvard Titans on Monday night.

Fitchburg played errorless baseball, backing the outstanding pitching of Rafi Perez, who went the route to earn the victory. Perez, who mixed his fastball with a darting knuckleball, allowed only four hits while striking out six and walking one. Half of his strikeouts in the contest were called as he kept the Titans’ hitters guessing throughout.

Lefthander Andy Smith deserved a better fate for the Titans. He allowed 11 hits and five earned runs while striking out one and walking three. Untimely defensive miscues allowing unearned runs to score and prolonged Fitchburg innings.

“You can’t give extra outs,” said Titans’ coach Duane Denmark. “We gave Fitchburg some five and six out innings. Andy threw the ball pretty well, but the defense didn’t help him out. Fitchburg made the plays and deserved to win.”

Fitchburg came out swinging in the top of the first when Josh Less and Shawn LeBlanc singled to set the table. Chris Allen dumped a hit into right that was turned into a fielder’s choice at second when Titans’ rightfielder Nick Kimball made a strong and accurate throw. After Eric Dion singled to load the bases, Less crossed the plate when Kurt Atkinson grounded into a fielder’s choice to make it 1-0.

Perez was very tough in the early going, setting down the side in order in the first two innings, and the visitors added to their lead in the top of the second. Perez singled and Michael Greiner reached on a error to start the inning. After a groundout advanced the runners into scoring position, Mark Decoteau laid down a squeeze bunt, and both Perez and Greiner scored when the throw wasn’t handled at first base.

Fitchburg upped the lead to 5-0 in the third when Dion walked and Josh Cassels reached on a fielder’s choice. With runners on the corners a perfect double steal allowed Dion to score to make it 4-0. When Cassels stole third and the throw wasn’t handled and rolled into left field, he scored to make it 5-0.

The Titans got one run back in the bottom of the third. With one out, Nick Kimball walked and stole second. After a flyout, Smith ripped a double down the left field line to get the Titans on the board.

Fitchburg rebuilt the five run lead with a run in the fifth when LeBlanc doubled and scored on Allen’sm single. The Titans prevented further damage with an inning-ending double play, started by shortstop Joe Eramo and turned by second baseman Jon Bollinger.

Fitchburg added a run in the top of the sixth when Dennis Maxfield singled, moved to second on a sacrifice, and scored when he stole third and the ball got away. Titans’ catcher Joseph Galeski picked a runner off second with a strong throw for the final out of the inning.

The visitors wrapped up the scoring with two runs in the top of the seventh on singles by Robbie Binnall, Less and LeBlanc (RBI), and a sacrifice fly by Allen.

Perez finished off his gem by retiring the final three hitters he faced, after allowing a single by Bollinger to open the bottom of the seventh.

LeBlanc led the Fitchburg offense with two singles, a double, two runs scored and an RBI. Allen added a single, double and two runs-batted-in, while Less chipped in with a pair of singles, as well as turning in a strong defensive effort at shortstop.

Smith paced the Titans with a single, double and an RBI. Bollinger added a pair of singles.

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