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SHIRLEY — Overall, the Groton-Dunstable Senior Babe Ruth team turned in a good effort, but one poor inning proved to be their Achilles’ heel as they fell to the Titans 9-4.

The game started well for the Crusaders as they jumped on top with two runs in the top of the first. John Denomme started it with a walk and advanced to second on a passed ball. Brandon Wilkinson plated Denomme with a single. Two batters later, Kyle Dzwonek knocked in Wilkinson to make it 2-0.

After Groton-Dunstable pitcher Denomme retired the Titans in order in the bottom of the inning, the Crusaders stranded Steve Fotino at third base in the top of the second, and the bottom of the second inning spelled doom for the Crusaders.

Denomme retired the first hitter of the inning, but Peter Knowles singled and stole second. Derek Dutcher started a chain of three straight walks that forced in a run. After a strikeout, Brett Keating walked to force in the tying run. Titans’ starting pitcher Ryan Carroll then helped his own cause by ripped a triple over the center fielder’s head, clearing the bases and giving the Titans a 5-2 lead. Carroll scored on an error to put the Titans on top 6-2 after two innings.

The Crusaders answered right back in the top of the third. Denomme walked and Wilkinson singled to set the table. Evan Toth grounded into a fielder’s choice to put runners at the corners. Dzwonek brought them both home as he smashed a double down the right field line. Nick Morgida was hit by a pitch, but Carroll notched a pair of strikeouts to escape further damage.

Both teams went down in order in the fourth, as Connor Smith came on in relief for Groton-Dunstable. Smith, a student at Kent High School in Connecticut, ended the inning with two strikeouts, which ignited a streak of six straight batters retired by punch-outs.

The streak carried into the bottom of the sixth when the Titans put the game away. With runners on second and third, Brett Keating came through with a two-run single that extended the lead to 9-4 and effectively ended any comeback hopes for Groton-Dunstable.

Carroll settled down nicely over his final two innings of work, the fourth and fifth, allowing the Titans to take control of the game as Groton-Dunstable wouldn’t threaten in their final four at bats.

Dutcher then sealed the deal by setting down Groton-Dunstable in order in the top of the seventh.

Carroll earned the victory with a strong effort, going five innings, allowing four runs and notching 11 strikeouts. Offensively, he was 1-4 and drove in three runs. Dutcher finished the game off in style with two shutout innings, striking out four.

Smith allowed two runs over three innings for Groton-Dunstable, striking out seven. Dzwonek enjoyed a productive offensive game, going 2-for-3 with three runs-batted-in. Wilkinson went 2-for-4 and had the other RBI for the Crusaders.