SHIRLEY — Shirley is enjoying an outstanding first season in Jr. Legion baseball, and its clinical 6-2 victory over Somerville was a blueprint for success. Shirley was strong across the board, getting an outstanding effort from Matt Noel on the mound, sure-handed defense, and timely hitting as they improved to 6-2 on the season.
“Matt pitched an outstanding game and set the tone,” said Shirley manager Jim Canning. “He mixed his pitches well and had an outstanding curve ball. Mike Powell led our offense and shortstop Ricky Christian played a strong defensive game. We are playing well and we really appreciate the support we have received from the Shirley Legion and its commander. We also appreciate the support we have received from Shirley Youth Baseball and Bob Eramo.”
Noel tossed a goose egg in the top of the first, showing a preview of coming attractions as he struck out a pair of hitters looking with his knee-buckling curve ball.
Somerville starting pitcher Ronnie Slager retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning, and the visitors grabbed the lead with a run in the top of the second. Billy Nolan led off with a triple to deep right and scored on Dallas O’Brien’s sacrifice fly. Somerville threatened for more when Stephen St. Croix singled and Sean Simas walked, but the Shirley defense squelched the threat when second baseman Conor O’Brien fielded a hard ground ball and flipped to Christian, who fired to first to complete the inning-ending double play.
Somerville shortstop Sammy Evers made a pair of quality defensive plays in the bottom of the inning to keep the lead intact. Justin Roberts hit a ground ball into the hole and Evers ranged to his right, planted and fired a strong throw to first for the first out. With two outs, Chris Canning singled and moved to second on a wild pitch, but Evers leaped and speared Christian’s line drive for the final out.
Noel wriggled out of a jam in the top of the third with help from catcher Canning. Sean White led off with a double and Jon Barry drew a walk. After a strikeout, White tried to steal third, but was gunned down by a perfect throw by Canning.
Shirley finally got its offense untracked in the bottom of the third and took the lead for good. O’Brien and Jim Basile set the table by drawing walks to open the inning. After a strikeout, Mike Powell ripped a single to right to plate O’Brien. The ball got loose as Basile raced around to score and Powell hustled to third. An RBI double by Roberts and a run-producing single by Clayton Galeski made it 4-1.
Noel put it on cruise control over the next three innings, retiring nine of the 10 hitters he faced, including five strikeouts. The only Somerville baserunner over that span was a two-out walk to Simas in the fourth, but the next hitter ripped a shot to second that O’Brien snagged on the short hop and turned into the third out.
Shirley padded the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. They caught a break to open the inning when Christian swung at a third strike but the ball got away from the catcher and he reached first safely. After O’Brien walked, Adam Lamont’s sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third, setting the stage for back-to-back RBI singles by Noel and Powell, which boosted the advantage to 6-1.
Shirley threatened in the bottom of the sixth when Josh Mihill and Roberts singled with two outs, but Somerville relief pitcher Kevin Foley induced a fly out to escape.
Somerville stirred around in the top of the seventh, scoring an unearned run but Noel maintained his composure and sealed the deal with a strikeout and groundout.
Noel allowed one earned run and four hits over seven innings, striking out 10 and walking four. Roberts paced the Shirley offense with a single, double, run scored and an RBI, while Powell (two RBI) and Mihill (run scored) each chipped in with a pair of singles.