LITTLETON — Littleton’s James Ray tossed a complete-game three-hitter and added a single, double and a walk offensively to lead the Tigers to a 5-1 victory over Ayer-Shirley.
The teams were tied at 1-1 through four innings as Ayer-Shirley freshman pitcher Danny Baldino kept the Panthers on even terms, before the Tigers put the game away with three runs in the bottom of the fifth. Coner Reardon walked and Pete Murphy singled to set the table, before consecutive doubles by Alex McGlaughlin (two RBI), and Steve Smith (RBI), and Ray (RBI) made it 5-1. Given the lead, Ray was tough over the final two innings, facing only six Ayer-Shirley hitters.
“I’m happy with our effort today,” said Ayer-Shirley coach Scott Callanan. “Danny pitched well for us and we are getting better every game. Give credit to their pitcher, he was tough and consistent, and Littleton broke the game open with legitimate hits.”
Baldino led off the game with a solid single to right center field, but Littleton second baseman Murphy made a nice running catch to take a hit away from Mark Calabrese, and Ray retired the next two hitters on groundouts.
The Tigers took the lead with a run in the bottom of the second when Smith singled, stole second and scored on Ray’s single. Baldino did a nice job of escaping further damage by notching a pair of strikeouts to strand runners on second and third.
The Panthers drew even in the top of the third. Ryan Coulter singled and stole second. Baldino laid down a bunt that was misplayed and stole second to put runners on second and third with no outs. Ray bore down and appeared on the verge of pitching out of the jam when he got a groundout and a strikeout, but Brent Routhier plated Coulter with a single to tie the game at 1-1.
Littleton mounted a threat in the bottom of the fourth, but were turned away by a strong defensive play by the Panthers. Ray walked and Matt Jackson singled to lead off the inning, and Nick Bennino ripped a hard ground ball down the third base line. Ayer-Shirley third baseman Routhier knocked the ball down, stepped on third and fired to first to complete a double play. Baldino then got an inning-ending groundout to keep the game a 1-1 affair.
Ray pitched around an error in the top of the fifth, and the Tigers put together their decisive rally in the bottom of the inning.
Baldino allowed five earned runs and eight hits over five innings, striking out two and walking two. Left-handed Coulter came on in relief and worked a 1-2-3 sixth.
Smith (two runs scored, RBI) and Ray (two runs-batted-in) each had a single and double to pace the Litteton offense.
The Panthers committed only one error in the contest and both shortstop Kyle Larter and second baseman Mark Calabrese played well defensively. Baldino reached base in all three plate appearances.