By Conor Walsh
---- — ROCKPORT -- With the Rockport baseball team’s offense scuffling and the Vikings looking to get above .500 for the first time this year, coach John Parisi sent senior captain Tucker Meredith to the mound for the first time this season.
After missing the first three games of the year with illness, though, the senior ace didn’t have the kind of zip that Parisi’s used to seeing.
Visiting Lynnfield plated a run in the top of the first inning before Meredith settled down. That was the last time the Pioneers would cross the plate, though.
Meredith was far from overpowering, striking out just one Lynnfield batter in a complete-game effort. What he was, though, was effective. He pitched to contact, scattering four hits and letting his defense do the work behind him, and the two runs Rockport manufactured in the second inning proved to be enough as the Vikings took home the 2-1 win under the lights at Evans Field.
“He came off the mound in the first inning and said, ‘Coach, I have nothing,’ and I said, ‘Alright, we’ll see what happens but just keep battling out there,’” Parisi said. “He threw strikes. He pounded the strike zone and that’s what we needed him to do.”
With Meredith still feeling the after-effects of a nasty bout of mononucleosis, his offensive teammates didn’t do him any favors, and with Lynnfield pitcher Andrew Carbone matching Meredith pitch-for-pitch, the Vikings’ scuffling offense was thrown farther into its funk.
The Vikings did, however, do enough to win. Adam Balzarini led off the second inning with the first of the Vikings’ three hits, a double down the left field line.
A groundout by Meredith moved Balzarini to third, and a hit-by-pitch sent Caleb Tanson to first base to set up a double steal that plated Balzarini.
Conor Kuykendall came to the plate next with two outs and grounded to the shortstop. An errant throw pulled the first baseman off the bag and Kuykendall beat out a bang-bang play, and while the Pioneers argued the call, Tanson rounded third and scored the Vikings’ second, and ultimately game-winning, run.
With the lead, Meredith was in cruise control. He walked a batter in the third inning and allowed a single in the fifth inning, but never allowed anything to materialize despite not having his best stuff.
Parisi even admitted he’d planned on pulling Meredith after five innings, but Kuykendall -- his scheduled reliever -- singled in the bottom of the fifth and was unable to warm up.
It didn’t hurt that Meredith’s teammates were making all the plays behind him -- with highlights including a leaping grab by shortstop Mike Tupper, left fielder Conor Douglass flagging down a handful of deep fly balls and a 1-6-3 double play on a bunt attempt.
“I didn’t have my best stuff, I really relied on my defense,” Meredith said. “They’re the best, they really picked me up all day long. I was pitching to contact because these guys were awesome. It was disappointing (missing the start of the season) because I worked so hard in the offseason, but I’m glad I’m back.”
Rockport’s offensive struggles were highlighted in the bottom of the fifth inning when Kuykendall’s single and a Lynnfield error put runners on first and second with no outs and the top of the Vikings’ lineup coming up.
Carbone (6IP, 3H, 2R, 4K) got three straight outs to keep the pressure on Meredith.
Things got tense in the top of the seventh when Lynnfield catcher Tyler Palumbo laced a two-out triple to left field, putting the tying run just 90 feet away, but Meredith got the final out on a popup to secure the team’s third-straight win.
“We need to hit better,” Parisi said. “There’s no question, we need to hit better to beat a good team like that. We’ve all been there. We’ll get there, it’s just a matter of getting back on track.”
agateHed:Rockport 2, Lynnfield 1
agateText:at Evans Field, Rockport
agateText:Lynnfield: Roper ss 3-1-1, Fraulini cf 3-1-1, Briana dh 3-0-0, Bruno 2-0-0, Basilesco 3b 3-0-0, Lordan 1b 3-0-0, Palumbo c 2-0-1, Gallo 3b 3-0-1, Sullivan lf 2-0-0. Totals 24-1-4
agateText:Rockport: Douglass lf 3-0-0, Scatterday 2b 3-0-0, Tupper ss 3-0-0, Balzarini cf 3-1-1, Meredith p 3-0-0, Tanson c 2-1-1, Nelson rf 2-0-0, Kuykendall 3b 1-0-1, Flavin dh 2-0-0. Totals 22-2-3
agate_MLB_linescore9:Lynnfield: 100 000 0 | 1
agate_MLB_linescore9:Rockport: 020 000 x | 2
agate_MLB_linescore9:RBI: L, Bruno.
agate_MLB_linescore9:WP: Meredith; LP: Carbone