HUDSON — When Ayer/Shirley met Hudson in the opening round of the District U11 Tournament, runs were scarce and it turned into a purist’s delight. Hudson managed only three hits in the contest, but picked up two of them in the bottom of the fourth inning when they scored a pair of runs that made the difference in a taut 3-1 win.
Two pitchers split the mound duties for Hudson. Jeff Rhodes worked the first three innings, allowing one earned run and one hit while striking out four and walking three. Hard-throwing Jimmy Prater finished things off with three hitless innings, striking out eight and walking one.
Ayer starting pitcher Kyle Jumper deserved a better fate. He pitched four strong innings, surrendering two earned runs and three hits, notching eight strikeouts and not walking a batter.
Ayer just missed breaking the ice in the top of the first, denied by a strong defensive play by Hudson. Liam Noonan walked to lead off and moved to second one out later when Angelo Eramo walked. Noonan stole third and the ball sailed down the left field line, but Hudson leftfielder Chris McBreen alertly backed the play up and fired a strike to catcher Steve Miranda, who tagged Noonan out. Eramo reached third on a wild pitch but was stranded when Rhodes picked up an inning-ending strikeout.
Hudson broke on top with an unearned run in the bottom of the inning. After Jumper struck the first two hitters out, Rhodes reached on an error and moved to second on a passed ball. Rhodes broke for third on a delayed steal, and came all the way around to score when the ball sailed past the third baseman.
Ayer/Shirley catcher Alex Patano gunned down a Hudson basestealer at second base in the bottom of the second, and Ayer/Shirley tied the game with a run in the top of the third. Jumper led off by drawing a walk and moved to third on a pair of wild pitches. He scored to tie the game when Patano grounded out. Eramo followed with a single, but Rhodes got the final hitter he faced in the game to ground out.
The Ayer defense rose to the occasion in the bottom of the inning to keep the game on even terms. After Pat Kerrigan led off by reaching on an error and stole second, Brian Twomey hit a ground ball to second baseman Noonan, who fired to first for the out. Kerrigan broke for third but a perfect strike from first baseman Christian Bradley to third baseman Ryan Fillebrown was in time for the final out of the inning.
Prater was dominant the rest of the way for Hudson, retiring nine of the 10 men he faced. The lanky righthander threw hard and showed solid command.
Hudson, which had been held to one hit over the first three innings, came out swinging in the bottom of the inning when Miranda and Rhodes led off with sharp singles. Each scored on wild pitches to put Hudson on top 3-1.
Jumper drew a one-out walk for Ayer/Shirley in the top of the fifth, but that would be its final baserunner. Kaitlyn Rooney came on to pitch for Ayer/Shirley in the bottom of the fifth and tossed a 1-2-3 inning, including a strikeout, but Prater finished off the game with an overpowering sixth, striking out the side in the middle of the Ayer/Shirley order.