AYER — The Ayer-Shirley baseball team is a work in progress, but on Monday afternoon the Panthers showed once again that things are headed in the right direction. Buoyed by a strong effort on the mound from Kyle Larter, solid defense and timely hitting, the Panthers rolled to a 10-2 victory over Bromfield to improve to 3-8 for the season.
“Kyle has been asking to pitch since the Maynard game,” said Ayer-Shirley coach Scott Callanan. “He threw strikes, challenged the hitters and was dominant at times today. It was fun to watch.”
Larter allowed no runs and four hits over five innings, striking out nine and walking two. He used a well-placed fastball to advantage, mixing in just enough breaking pitches to keep the Trojans off balance. Danny Baldino pitched the final two innings for the Panthers, allowing one earned run and two hits while striking out one and walking one.
Clayton Galeski took the loss for the Trojans, working the first four innings. He surrendered six earned runs and four hits while striking out five and walking eight. Nick George finished up, allowing one run and two hits over two innings, picking up three strikeouts.
Larter set the tone by working a 1-2-3 top of the first, and the Panthers took the lead for good in the bottom of the inning with a pair of unearned runs. With one out, Mark Calabrese and Luke Snyder drew walks. After a pop-out, Calabrese scored on the front end of a double steal. Snyder scored when Tyler Hanley reached on an error before Larter helped his own cause with a run-producing single to make it 3-0.
In the top of the third, Bromfield mounted a two-out threat when Zane Atwood and Galeski singled, but Ayer-Shirley third baseman Brent Routhier made a leaping catch of Jason Frye’s line drive to keep the lead intact.
The Panthers took control of the game in the bottom of the inning, scoring four runs on just a single hit, taking advantage of a patient approach at the plate. Luke Snyder led off with a single, and Routhier and Hanley followed by drawing walks. All three would later score, in addition to Mitch Taylor crossing the plate after reaching on a fielder’s choice when the Trojans’ attempt to get an out at home plate was late.
Larter breezed through the fourth and fifth innings, facing only seven hitters and allowing just a one-out single by George in the fifth.
Ayer-Shirley added to the lead with two more runs in the fourth, all the damage coming after the first two hitters in the inning were retired. Hanley doubled and Larter walked and both raced around to score when Taylor ripped a long triple to right center field.
Larter started to tire and walked Galeski and Frye to open the top of the sixth, and Baldino came on in relief and wriggled out of the jam. Ayer-Shirley third baseman Routhier fielded a hard ground ball, stepped on third and fired to second for a double play, and the next hitter grounded out.
The Panthers added their final run in the bottom of the sixth when Routhier walked, moved to second when Hanley walked, and scored on Larter’s single.
Bromfield avoided the shutout in the top of the seventh when Mike Jackovitz walked, advanced to third on a single by Caleb Green, and scored on George’s single. Green scored the final run of the contest when Sam Carlson grounded out.
Larter complemented his outstanding effort on the mound with a productive day at the plate, finishing with two singles, a run scored and two runs-batted-in. Hanley reached base in all four plate appearances, including a double, and crossed the plate three times. Snyder and Routhier also scored two runs each for Ayer-Shirley.
“Mitch Taylor did a nice job today,” said Callanan. “He hit a long triple and was aggressive on the bases. We also played good team defense. We are 3-3 since our 0-5 start and the kids are happy right now and haven’t given up.”
George led the Bromfield offense with a pair of singles and an RBI.