HUDSON — Both Groton and Ayer/Shirley suffered first round losses in the Cal Ripken 11U Baseball Tournament and they met each other with backs planted firmly against the wall. In a game that was close from start to finish, Groton emerged with a hard-fought 5-3 win.
Patrick Ryan proved to be the difference for Groton with a sterling all-around effort. He earned the victory on the mound with a gutsy performance, tossing a complete-game five-hitter, striking out two and walking six. He showed the ability to make a key pitch at the right times to escape jams. Offensively, Ryan chipped in with a perfect 2-2 day at the plate with a single and double. To cap things off, he started a game-ending 1-2-5 double play by fielding a ground ball back to the mound when Ayer/Shirley had loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth and had the winning run on base.
Groton took the lead in the top of the first against Ayer/Shirley starting pitcher Ryan Fillebrown (three innings, three earned runs, five hits, five strikeouts, three walks). Johnny Bruno drew a one-out walk, and after Joe Simeone walked an out later, Mike MacDonough ripped an RBI single to make it 1-0.
Ayer/Shirley bounced back to tie the game in the bottom of the inning when Liam Noonan walked, Alex Patano singled,a and Angelo Eramo plated Noonan when he grounded out. The Groton defense came up big to prevent further damage, shortstop Bruno snagging Terrance Cooper’s line drive and firing to third base to complete a double play.
Ayer/Shirley moved in front in the bottom of the second when they scored two runs without picking up a hit. Fillebrown led off by reaching on an error. With the bases loaded and one out, James Caires drew a walk and Noonan was hit by a pitch to make it 3-1.
Groton tied things up in the top of the third. Bruno and James Griffin set the table by leading off with singles. After a strikeout, Bruno scored on a wild pitch before MacDonough scored Griffin with a groundout.
Groton took the lead in the top of the fourth against Kaitlyn Rooney, who came on in relief for Ayer/Shirley when Ryan, Kevin Doody, Nate Forbes (RBI) and Bruno (RBI) came through with consecutive singles. The Ayer/Shirley defense came up big to prevent further damage when shortstop Eramo fielded Griffin’s hot shot and fired to first for the out, and first baseman Christian Bradley’s perfect throw nailed the runner trying for third base to end the inning.
Ryan shut down Ayer/Shirley in the bottom of the inning, backed by strong defense from second baseman Doody, who made a solid defensive play on a ground ball for the second out, before ranging into shallow right field to haul down Noonan’s blooper.
Rooney held Groton at bay in the top of the fifth with help from her defense. Eramo put a hard charge on Simeone’s ground ball and fired to first for the first out, before center fielder Caires hauled in MacDonough’s hard shot.
Ayer/Shirley picked up a pair of singles in the bottom of the fifth, but once again the Groton defense responded as catcher Chris Werner gunned down a basestealer at second base.
Kyle Jumper came on to pitch for Ayer/Shirley in the top of the sixth and wriggled out of a jam to strand the bases loaded as he struck out the side.
In the bototm of the sixth, Rooney walked and Jumper singled to put runners on first and second with no outs. After a strikeout, Caires walked to load the bases. Ryan then started the game-ending double play.
Jack O’Neill led the Groton offense with a single and triple while Doody (run scored) and Bruno (two runs scored, RBI) each chipped in with a pair of singles.