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TOWNSEND — Throughout the first half of the season, the North Middlesex baseball team had struggled to put runs on the board. On Saturday afternoon, those struggles looked like a thing of the past.

The Patriots exploded against Gardner, putting together an 18-hit attack that saw every starter come up with at least one safety in a 20-2 mercy-shortened blowout victory.”We got off to a hot start and never let down,” said North Middlesex coach Tom Bartelson. “Early on throughout the season, we have had some issues producing runs, so to see the team come out today and put it all together was great. We were coming off a 15-0 loss to Hudson and it left a bad taste in our mouth. This helped washed that memory away.”Patriots starter Shawn Pinney allowed a first-inning walk, but recorded three strikeouts in the top of the first and his teammates provided run support in the home half of the frame. Tyler MacDonald and Brandon Cole walked, advanced a base on a wild pitch and scored when Joe Smith reached on an error. Kevin Powell (RBI), John Boutwell (two RBI) and Jim Ciampa (RBI) all came up with run-scoring doubles as North Middlesex took a 6-0 lead.

After the teams traded runs in the second, the Patriots pushed across five runs in the bottom of the third. With one out, Ciampa singled, MacDonald walked and Cole singled to load the bases. Smith then drove in a pair with a single and Powell followed that with a two-run double. Tony Sylvester added an RBI single as well as the advantage grew to 12-1.

An unearned run for the Wildcats made it 12-2, but North Middlesex put the game away with eight more runs in the fourth. The inning was keyed by two hit-by-pitches, three errors and run-producing hits from Andrew Jena (RBI single) and Mitchell Hudlin (two-run double) as the Patriots sent 13 batters to the plate in increasing their lead to 20-2.

Pinney picked up the win, allowing one earned run on four hits while walking four and striking five. Logan Kuztmitch came on to work the final inning, allowing one hit and striking out two while getting a game-ending fly out to center to close out the game and move North Middlesex to 3-7 on the season.

“Shawn pitched pretty well today and was effective early on before wearing down a bit,” said Bartelson. “Offensively, our top five hitters were outstanding, headlined by Andrew, Tyler and Joe. We hit up and down the lineup and played pretty well defensively. This was the best game we have played this season and hopefully can carry over.”

Jena led the Patriots with four singles, two runs scored and two RBI. Powell added two doubles, a single, two runs scored and three RBI. Ciampa finished with a double, two singles, three runs scored and an RBI. Smith contributed a double, single, walk, four runs scored and two RBI.

MacDonald had two singles, two walks and four runs scored while Boutwell (two runs scored) and Hudlin each had a hit and two RBI. North Middlesex plays Fitchburg at home today at 3:30 p.m.