By Conor Walsh
---- — GLOUCESTER — The Gloucester baseball team sent a clear message to the rest of the Northeastern Conference on Saturday: Don’t let the Fishermen get their bats going.
With a stacked lineup featuring power, speed and consistency from top-to-bottom, the Fishermen can hang a crooked number on an opponent in a hurry.
Marblehead found itself on the receiving end of that kind of Gloucester outburst Saturday at Nate Ross Field. Starting with a seven-run barrage in the bottom of the first inning, Gloucester’s bats never quit in a 17-0, five-inning win in a mercy rule-shortened game.
Catcher Jordan Pallazola (3-for-4, HR, 2 RBI), shortstop Santo Parisi (2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI) and left fielder Jason Vizena (3-for-3, 3 R) paced the Gloucester offense, while pitcher Alex Webb quietly spun a gem on the mound, scattering three hits through five innings in a complete-game shutout.
All things considered, a pretty good day at the office for Gloucester.
“We came out firing,” Gloucester coach Joe Orlando said. “The biggest thing I’ve been preaching since day one was defense. We shut out Salem (Friday) and now today we come in with Marblehead and we shut them out. I told them I’m more impressed with the goose egg than the 17 runs. We knew we can hit, so I said, ‘You guys need to know that if you don’t give up any runs, it’s easy to win the game.’”
It was clear from the start that, if the Fishermen followed Orlando’s advice and kept Marblehead off the board, Saturday’s game was going to be a cakewalk.
After Webb sat the Magicians down in order in the top of the first inning, and Fishermen never looked back. Vizena led off the game with a double to the fence. Two batters later, Webb doubled off the fence to score Vizena. Pallazola followed with a double of his own.
RBI singles by Conor Harris, Parisi, Vizena and Peter Clark followed in an inning where the Fishermen sent 12 batters to the plate and scored seven, and the game was blown completely wide open.
A Mike Muniz RBI single in the bottom of the second extended the lead to 8-0, and with Webb continuing to cruise — he retired the first nine Marblehead batters — the Fishermen kept rolling.
Parisi’s three-run bomb to left highlighted a six-run third inning, while pinch-hitter Drew Shairs (2-for-2, 2 RBI) knocked in two with a single up the middle.
And in the bottom of the fourth with the Fishermen flirting with the 15-run mercy rule, Pallazola put the icing on the cake with a two-run moonshot to center field.
Marblehead scratched out a couple of baserunners as the game wore on, but Webb’s pitching and Gloucester’s blemish-free defensive performance kept the Magicians (4-5) off the board.
“Alex came up huge, he hadn’t pitched all year,” Orlando said. “He had knee surgery during hockey, so we knew we had to rest him, rest him, rest him. He’s thrown a few bullpen sessions, but he definitely would have been done after five.”
The win capped off a 3-1 week for Gloucester, which knocked off Revere, Salem and Marblehead after dropping a tight one with unbeaten Danvers on Monday.
“When you put up 17 runs, you get to play everybody and it’s fun,” Orlando said. “It’s a luxury for me, letting everyone get some at-bats today. We had a good week, three out of four.”
Saturday’s confidence-boost couldn’t have come at a better time for the Fishermen, who enter a pivotal stretch of their schedule tomorrow. They’ll swing through the NEC North over the next week, starting with powerhouse Peabody tomorrow, followed by strong teams in Beverly (Wednesday), Lynn Classical (Friday) and Lynn English (next Monday).