TOWNSEND — The North Middlesex baseball team was forced to play catch-up for most of their MidWach A match-up with Fitchburg on Friday. But the story had a happy ending as Ryan Milliken’s clutch RBI single, followed by a wild pitch that plated the decisive run, lifted the Patriots to a 7-6 win over Fitchburg. The victory improved the Patriots to 5-12 overall for the season, including 3-9 in league play.
“Fitchburg hit the ball hard early but our kids didn’t panic,” said North Middlesex coach Tom Bartelson. “Kevin Quin came in and did a great job in relief and shut the door. He has been working on the side and it has begun to pay off. We kept battling and Ryan came up with the big hit. It was nice to see a senior captain come through.”
North Middlesex starting pitcher Justin Roberts breezed through the top of the first, setting the Red Raiders down in order, and the Patriots took the lead in the bottom of the inning.
Kevin Marciano led off by drawing a walk, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 1-1. Fitchburg catcher David Martinez prevented further damage by gunning down a runner trying to steal third base.
Fitchburg mounted a two-out rally in the top of the second to take the lead. Dan Finn walked with one out and an out later, came around to score on Tom Membrino’s double. After Martinez plated Membrino with a single, Nick Primeau ripped a run-producing double to make it 3-1.
North Middlesex got one of the runs back in the bottom of the inning against Fitchburg’s starting pitcher Finn. Matt Clarke led off with a double, moved to third on Matt Foley’s sacrifice bunt and scored when Mike Skelly grounded out.
The Red Raiders padded the lead with two runs in the top of the third. Tyler Dupuis singled and scored on Dan Thibault’s long triple. After a pair of lineouts, the second a leaping catch by North Middlesex first baseman Clarke, Membrino came through with an RBI single to make it 5-2. North Middlesex catcher Matt Canning accounted for the third out when he threw out Membrino trying to steal second.
The Patriots sliced a run off the lead in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, Matt Russell ripped a double. Mike Tenore sent a hard grounder into the shortstop hole that was gloved, but the throw to first was low and got away as Russell came around to score to make it 5-3.
Roberts settled down and retired the side in order in the top of the fourth, and the Patriots scored a single run for the fourth consecutive inning to make it 5-4. Canning led off with a walk. Foley ripped a sinking line drive into the shortstop hole that was speared by Membrino, but the throw to double the runner off first was low and bounced away, with Canning advancing to third. Skelly’s sacrifice fly made it a one-run game.
The Patriots put together a mixed bag of defense in the top of the fifth as Fitchburg got one run back despite their first five hitters of the inning all reaching base. Chris Monroe reached on an error and stole second. Dupuis struck out but reached first base on a wild pitch. Roberts picked a runner off first for the first out, before Monroe scored when Thibault reached on an error. Finn singled and Quin came on in relief for the Patriots. Jean Pacheco walked to load the bases with one out, but the Patriots’s defense made a big play when Marciano at shortstop fielded Membrino’s hot smash, flipped to Russell at second and he turned an inning-ending double play to keep the Patriots within 6-4.
Finn and Quin both set the side down in order and the Patriots put together the decisive rally in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Foley and Skelly singled to set the table. Tyler Goulding hit a ground ball to shortstop and a flip to second retired Skelly, but the throw to first was low and bounced away as Foley came around to score. Marciano walked, and Goulding scored on a wild pitch to tie the game, settting the stage for Milliken’s big hit that created the deadlock. T.J. Wilson came on in relief for the Red Raiders and a few pitches later, Marciano scampered home with the lead run on a wild pitch.
Quin, who earned the win with 2 2/3 innings of hitless relief (two strikeouts, one walk) went out and took care of business, working a 1-2-3 seventh against the heart of the Fitchburg order.
Russell led the North Middlesex offense with a single, double and a run scored. Skelly singled and drove in a pair of runs while Marciano did a solid job out of the leadoff slot of the order with three walks and two runs scored. Roberts allowed five earned runs and eight hits over 4 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking one.
Finn allowed five earned runs and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings as he took the loss for the Red Raiders. The righthander struck out six and walked six. Membrino led the Fitchburg offense with a single, double, a run scored and two runs-batted-in. Glen Barrett played a strong defensive game at second base.