Entering a game between undefeated Patriot District rivals Tuesday night, Lake Braddock pitcher Shane Halley was excited.
Perhaps a little too excited.
"Shane was a little too pumped up at the beginning, and I had to calm him down," said Bruins manager Jody Rutherford. "He's not a kid who walks people."
Halley settled down, and combined with pitcher Joe Infante on an impressive 3-2 victory at West Springfield. The Bruins improved to 3-0 in the district and 4-0 overall; the Spartans fell to 2-1 and 3-1 overall.
The Bruins staked Halley to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on back-to-back grounds-rule doubles by Brenden Daley and Dave Bolyard, who batted Daley home. Bolyard stole third base and scored on a solid double to right field by Bret Williams.
Halley took the mound in the bottom of the inning, striking out the side by giving up two walks. In the bottom of the second, West Springfield cut the lead to 2-1 on an RBI groundout by Josh Brown that plated JT McCreary.
"I was just psyched, ready to go out there and throw strikes. I was ready to pump the gas instead of working on my strike zones," said Halley, who is a sophomore.
He settled down in the bottom of the third inning, striking out two Spartans. That set the table for junior David Fennessey's booming solo home run to centerfield in the top of the fourth, giving Lake Braddock some vital breathing room at 3-1.
In the fourth, the Bruins' young lineup nearly cost the team the lead. With one out, a wild pitch sent a Spartans runner to third base. Then West Springfield's Brian Deering sent a bloop single to right field — in the middle of three Lake Braddock fielders — to make it a 3-2 game. The inning ended when Deering was caught stealing on a pitch-out.
"We had four sophomores in the lineup tonight. We dropped a fly ball that should have been caught. You wait for stuff to pop up like that when you're a young team, and thus far it really hasn't happened," said Rutherford.
HALLEY SENT down the Spartans in order in the bottom of the fifth, responding to a 1-2-3 inning from West Springfield lefty Matt Weaver in the top of the inning.
Infante came on for Halley in the sixth, and retired six of the seven batters he faced in the final two innings. Halley caught the final out in right field, giving a victory yell as he ran in to congratulate Infante on the save.
"My team did awesome. They gave me everything I needed," said Halley.
West Springfield manager John James felt his team couldn't get to Halley early, when the young pitcher was off his game.
"It's as simple as that. We had runners on the bases; we just couldn't get that base hit to drive in runs. He basically beat us with fastballs. When you don't put the ball in play, put pressure on the defense, it's hard to win ball games," he said.
James said the Spartans will eventually start putting up consistent offensive numbers. "We'll come around. We just had a bad night tonight," he said.