PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

TOWNSEND — As the North Middlesex baseball team mounts its District bid, every game is crucial. The Patriots entered Monday’s game against Oakmont with a 4-4 record, firmly on the post-season bubble. The Patriots took a large step forward, riding the strong right arm of Matt Russell, a flawless defense and an opportunistic offense to an impressive 10-1 win.

Russell set the tone with an economical, route-going effort. The junior tossed a six-hitter with 10 strikeouts and no walks. He was in total command of both his fastball and a late-breaking curveball, mixing those two pitches effectively.

Russell was backed by strong defense, which fielded everything sent its way. Offensively, the Patriots put the game away with two big innings, getting a quick jump with a five-run first inning, and salting the game away with another five-spot in the sixth.

“Matt threw well and threw strikes,” said North Middlesex coach Tom Bartelson. “The defense responded behind him. It was nice to get some big hits in the first inning to build a lead, but then we had a lull offensively, but it was great to have another big inning to put the game away.”

After Russell tossed a goose egg in the top of the first, the Patriots took control of the game with an offensive explosion in the bottom of the inning against Oakmont starting pitcher Dylan Poulin, who surrendered 10 earned runs and 11 hits over 5 2/3 innings.

After the lead-off hitter struck out, Kevin Marciano singled and hustled to second when the ball was misplayed in the outfield. Brandon Cole plated Marciano with a solid single to make it 1-0. After Matt Clarke singled and Mike Skelly walked to load the bases, Matt Noel’s sacrifice fly made it 2-0. Mitch Hudlin ripped an RBI single to right before Brennan Lawrence capped the uprising with a two-run single to build the five-run cushion.

Poulin settled down nicely over the next four innings, holding the Patriots in check, but Oakmont failed to solve Russell, who continued to make quality pitches.

North Middlesex threatened in both the second and fourth innings, putting runners on first and second with no outs in both, but some shoddy baserunning hampered them from expanding the lead. In the second, Poulin picked a runner off second base and in the fourth a runner was gunned down attempting to steal third base.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Patriots put the game on ice. Matt Canning led off with a single and Shawn Pinney pinch-ran. After a groundout and strikeout, the Patriots put together some two-out lightning as Kevin Quin and Russell walked to load the bases, setting the stage for three consecutive run-producing hits. Marciano ripped a two-run single to make it 7-0 before an RBI double by Cole and a two-run single by Clarke built the 10-run lead.

Oakmont’s Steve Brown ruined the shutout bid in the top of the seventh by homering to center field on the first pitch.

Cole finished with a single, double, two runs scored and two RBIs, while Marciano (two runs scored, two RBI) and Clarke (run scored, two RBI) each added two singles.

Alex Ruel singled and doubled for Oakmont.