By Conor Walsh
---- — ESSEX — As the Lynnfield baseball team paraded its entire lineup to the plate and notched four runs in the top of the fourth inning against Manchester Essex yesterday, it appeared that the game was slipping out of the Hornets’ fingers.
After manufacturing a run in the first inning, Manchester Essex’s bats had gone quiet, and with the Pioneers finally getting to starting freshman pitcher Brandon Bartlett, the game’s momentum had taken a serious swing in Lynnfield’s direction.
The Hornets didn’t go away, though, and capitalized on their opportunities. A Mike Loebelenz two-run single paced a three-run fifth inning that tied the game, and senior co-captain Max Nesbit laced a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Hornets a 6-4 lead — and, eventually, a 6-4 win.
Sean Desmond, who slammed the door on the heart of the Lynnfield lineup in the top of the seventh, got the win in relief, and the Hornets improved to 1-1 with the impressive comeback victory.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to preach to them for the whole season: In baseball, things are going to happen,” Hornets’ coach Bob Garrett said. “It’s how you bounce back from it. Teams are going to score runs against you, you just need to come back and score runs of your own.”
The Pioneers (1-2) didn’t hit Bartlett hard at all during his four innings of work, piling up just two hits through the first three innings. But in the fourth, as so often happens, balls started to find holes.
A leadoff walk got the ball rolling, but that runner was erased at the plate after an A.J. Gallo double was relayed from left fielder Kevin Carter to shortstop Cory Burnham, whose throw beat the runner to sophomore catcher Dominic Cerrone.
That was the last stroke of luck for the inning. Lynnfield’s next three batters strung together singles — two bloopers and an infield single — to get the ball rolling, and a bases-loaded walk closed the big inning.
The Hornets, however, didn’t quit. Cerrone led off the bottom of the fifth with a double to deep left field, and Bartlett reached on an errant throw. Henry Gedney bunted them over, putting two men in scoring position with one out for Loebelenz (2-2, two RBI, three runs), who singled up the middle to cut the Lynnfield lead to 4-3.
A bases-loaded walk by Kevin Carter — who drove in Loebelenz in the first inning for the team’s first run — plated the Hornets right fielder again to knot the game at 4-4.
Desmond, who threw three hitless, scoreless innings of relief, continued to cruise, and the Hornets got a stroke of luck in the bottom of the sixth.
“(Desmond) threw great,” Garrett said. “Both of our pitchers were around the zone the whole game. It keeps the defense in the game, and they did a great job of keeping the Lynnfield hitters off-balance.”
With two outs, Gedney worked a walk. Loebelentz was hit by a pitch next, and a Craig Carter walk loaded the bases for Nesbit. The senior got the pitch he was looking for and laced a single to left-center field, plating Gedney and Loebelentz and giving Desmond more than enough room to work with.
In the grand scheme of things, there’s still a long way to go after yesterday’s game. A comeback win over a traditionally solid team like Lynnfield, though, is something that the Hornets can build on.
“That’s how you’re going to win games, especially against a team like that, a real good Lynnfield team,” Garrett said. “When they give you base runners, you’ve got to have them score and we were lucky enough to get a couple of big hits. As long as we play like we did today and get timely hits and good pitching, we’re going to be in every game.”