THE HORNETS beat Lynnfield 8-3 on Tuesday, earning a share of the CAL Kinney title with the Pioneers as both teams ended the regular season with a league record of 10-4. North Reading beat Lynnfield twice this season. (Courtesy Photo)
Update post publication:
North Reading falls to Weston 8-7 (May 24)
North Reading defeats Northeast 7-4 (May 25)
Published May 25, 2023
By DAN ZIMMERMAN
NORTH READING — A Hollywood screenwriter could not have scripted a more dramatic scenario than that which unfolded at Carey Park on Tuesday afternoon.
With the Cape Ann League Kinney title hanging in the balance, archrivals North Reading and Lynnfield clashed for the second time this season. The Hornets, on the strength of a four-run second inning and a commanding pitching performance turned in by freshman Robbie Daley, prevailed to claim a share of the title with an 8-3 win.
North Reading and Lynnfield wrapped up the CAL portion of the 2023 campaign with matching win-loss records of 10-4. While the Hornets swept the season series, winning both match-ups with the Pioneers, there are no provisions in the League to resolve a tie of this nature.
“The kids are disappointed – they wanted to win the whole thing,” said Lynnfield Coach John O’Brien, when asked about sharing the CAL Kinney title with North Reading. “But I’m glad that they’re disappointed because it shows me that they care.”
In recent weeks, both clubs enjoyed considerable success, including key league wins to remain in range of the top spot. Lynnfield knocked off a pair of CAL contenders back-to-back, defeating Newburyport, 9-2, followed by a 7-2 win over Triton. North Reading, in the meantime, warmed up offensively by dispatching Pentucket and Rockport, both behind abbreviated mercy rule finishes.
“We scored early in those games and any time you can give your pitching and defense that level of cushion, it’s awesome,” said North Reading Coach Eric Archambault, who is currently 13-4 overall. “It was a team effort and we did what we had to do in both of those games.”
In the pivotal contest, under cool, brisk conditions, Lynnfield was out to a quick lead, scoring two in the opening frame. Daley issued back-to-back walks at the outset and later in the inning, allowed a pair of basehits. The Pioneers’ Anthony Grabau, batting cleanup, drove in Nicholas Razzaboni and was followed by starting pitcher David Tracy, whose rip to right brought home Alexander Gentile.
Daley settled down in the second, and then some. He retired the side in order, on just 5 pitches. The North Reading hitters, newly inspired, got to his counterpart Tracy for 4 runs in the bottom of the inning on a dizzying array of bunt singles, superb baserunning, and a sacrifice fly RBI from Jason Curran. Scoring for the Hornets was Daley, Ryan Labb, Max Forristall, and Matt Mancinelli, representing the eventual game-winner.
“Every time we play Lynnfield, it’s always a game of momentum swings,” said Archambault. “They had all of the momentum in the first inning and then Daley shuts them down in the second and we got the momentum back.”
It was more of the same for Daley in the third, setting down the side with a minimum amount of pitches.
“Their pitcher was throwing strikes,” said O’Brien of Daley. “Our kids pitched pretty well today but defensively, when they’re giving you the outs with the bunt, you have to take them. We didn’t play our best baseball today, made a few mistakes and it hurt us.”
North Reading’s Aldo Vittozzi added an insurance run in the third, stealing a pair of bases and scoring on Daley’s bunt single. The Hornets stretched the lead to 8-2 in the fourth. The feature hit was Vittozzi’s double, which plated Curran and Ryan McGuire.
Lynnfield got one back as Owen Mullin led off the fifth with a double that skirted the third base line. He later crossed on a Hornet error but it was too little, too late. Daley, who went the distance, allowed just a pair of hits in the final two frames.
“Robbie Daley pitched a heckova game,” said Archambault. “We have a bunch of competitors on our pitching staff and he’s one of them. He has the mindset to pitch for contact and let the defense make the plays.”
North Reading traveled to make up a rain postponement in Weston on Wednesday evening, hosted Northeast Thursday, and will wrap up the regular season at home on Saturday morning, facing Essex Tech. Results will be recapped in next week’s edition.
Lynnfield will take part in the Brendan Grant Tournament, held at the Belmont Hill School. The Pioneers will face Burlington on Friday evening and a team to be announced for Saturday.