Published in the April 12, 2017 edition
By DAVID McCOUBREY
LYNNFIELD — The first day of spring was nearly three weeks ago, but for many, the start of baseball season is the signal that the long winter will finally begin to thaw in earnest.
Fans will have to wait a little longer, though, for the promise of warmer weather. Amid cloudy conditions and swirling winds that knocked over the outfield fencing on multiple occasions, the Lynnfield Pioneers baseball team outlasted the Arlington Catholic Cougars, 4-1, at Lynnfield High School on Saturday afternoon.
The Pioneers started senior captain Nicholas Aslanian on the mound, and looked to him to shut down a good Cougars club. Aslanian set the tone early, striking out two in the first frame, while striking out the side in the second.
In the bottom of the second, with two outs, Lynnfield needed a spark and got one from senior second baseman Michael Federico, who looped a single into right-center field. Senior DH Andre Padovani didn’t let his teammate’s hit go to waste, as he roped a double in the very next at-bat, scoring Federico and putting Lynnfield up 1-0. It was a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Aslanian KOs 10 in win
Aslanian continued to roll in the third, mixing up his fastball with a snappy breaking ball and a nifty changeup that wreaked havoc on the Cougars hitters’ timing. He struck out two more in the inning, giving him seven Ks through three. Aslanian finished with 10 strikeouts and two walks in six and one-third innings.
Aslanian and senior captain Bryant Dana, his catcher, were clearly on the same page and developed a good rhythm as battery mates throughout the game.
Aslanian said, “Like Dana said, the key for me has always been working fast and using my fastball and getting ahead early, especially with a first-pitch strike. You can do anything you want after you get a first-pitch strike.”
The southpaw tired in the sixth, giving up two softly hit singles and a walk to load the bases. His 93 pitches were followed by just 12 from sophomore lefty Fernando Gonzalez, who, in typical closer form, throws very hard. A wild pitch allowed Arlington Catholic to score a run, but the change from the relative finesse of Aslanian to the power of Gonzalez was too much for the Cougars to handle and they wouldn’t score again.
Defense steps up in 4th
Lynnfield also saw trouble in the fourth when Aslanian found himself battling control problems. He walked one hitter and hit another. A third Cougar singled and suddenly, in a 1-0 game in favor of the Pioneers, Lynnfield was looking at a bases loaded, no outs situation. Aslanian recorded the next out with no damage done but the following batter drove a fastball high in the air to right. Sophomore Jonathan Luders made the catch and rifled the throw to cut off man, junior first baseman Dan Jameson, who whirled around and threw it home in time to nab the runner trying to tag up from third. It was mid-season level defense on opening day.
Stellato, Marengi rope homers
Head Coach John O’Brien enjoyed what he called a good team effort. Aside from the stellar pitching, the Pioneers saw their bats come alive in the sixth, mashing two home runs. The first, which gave Lynnfield a 2-0 cushion, came courtesy of senior captain and third baseman Mike Stellato, who hit a frozen rope over the wall in left-center. After a pitching change from Arlington Catholic, junior left fielder Cooper Marengi blasted a two-run homer to dead center to put Lynnfield up 4-0.
It’s only one game, but with excellent pitching, a powerful offense, and an error-free defensive effort, the Pioneers have a lot on which to build. Lynnfield travels to play Pentucket on Thursday, April 13 at 3:45 p.m., and is back home Saturday, April 15, to square off against Masconomet at 10 a.m.