TOWNSEND — After fending off Tyngsboro on the road in its season opener, the North Middlesex baseball team broke out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first and never looked back as the Patriots rolled to an easy 11-3 win over Quabbin.
Senior righthander Matt Russell earned the victory on the mound with a complete-game effort, allowing one earned runs and five hits while striking out nine and walking only one. Russell mixed a well-located fast ball with a sharp, late breaking curve ball as he did ßßßßßa great job of keeping the Panthers’ hitters off balance throughout the game.
The North Middlesex offense backed up the strong pitching with a 13-hit attack, led by Justin Roberts, who was a perfect 4-4.
After Russell tossed a goose egg in the top of the first, the Patriots put their three-spot on the board against Quabbin lefthander M.J. Briggs. Consecutive run-producing singles by Roberts, Andrew Jena and Joe Smith gave the Patriots an early cushion.
Quabbin bounced back with a run in the top of the second when Joe Reed doubled down the right field line and scored on a single up the middle by Bill Robinson.
The Patriots maintained the offensive flow with three more runs to extend the advantage to 6-1. Kevin Marciano ripped a two-run double to plate Russell and Brandon Cole, before scoring on Roberts’ single.
That lead remained intact until the top of the fifth when the Panthers struck for a pair of unearned runs as Patriot defensive miscues allowed Robbie Peterson and Dillon Morgan, who had singled to come around and score.
But any thoughts of a comeback by the visitors were quickly dashed in the bottom of the inning as a five-run uprising by the Patriots made it 11-3 and put the game out of reach. Roberts was right in the middle of things again, delivering a run-producing double while Russell chipped in with an RBI single. Russell stole three bases in the contest and crossed the plate three times. North MIddlesex reserves came up big in the frame as both Kevin Powell and Logan Kuzmitch ripped singles, and John Boutwell dropped down a well-placed sacrifice bunt.
“We are stressing how important it is to get a jump on the other team and we did a good job of doing that today,” said North Middlesex coach Tom Bartelson. “I think the kids are starting to gain confidence offensively, and it was very nice to see us bounce back after Quabbin got on the board in the top of the second. We received valuable contributions from our studs, but a number of other kids chipped in. This was a solid, team win.”
“Matt threw a gem for us,” said Bartelson. “He did a nice job of throwing strikes and keeping the ball down in the strike zone.”