LYNN — Thursday night’s Babe Ruth 16-18-year-old New England Regional opening game between host Lynn and Keene (N.H.) belonged to pitcher Devin Curley. The Lynn starter tossed seven shutout innings and kept Keene’s bats quiet through the night, leading his team to a 2-0 victory at Fraser Field.
Curley threw 89 pitches in his efficient start and tallied seven strikeouts in the win.
“Devin was the man on the mound,” Lynn coach Al Donovan said. “He goes seven innings and throws 89 pitches, that’s really good. That’s 12.5 pitches an inning. We’ll take that all day long. We couldn’t have asked for anything more from Devin.
“When you pitch in a ballpark like this, Devin’s smart enough to go right at hitters,” Donovan added. “You’re not going to have guys hitting home runs out of here. We have a stellar defense in the outfield with Colin Reddy, Kyle Ouellette, who made a great catch in foul territory, and Brett Bucklin. You’re not going to get three better outfielders.”
With the victory, the Lynners moved into the winner’s bracket of the regional tournament. Lynn battles against Norwalk (CT) Friday night (7) at Fraser Field.
“Norwalk’s a good team,” Donovan said. “We’ll have David Barnard going on the mound. We’ll expect big things from David. He’s always a grinder, he’s always around the plate. He always competes at a high level. We feel confident with him coming in.”
The Lynners saw no shortage of scoring opportunities through the first two innings but couldn’t score. Lynn left runners on second and third in the bottom of the first inning and the bases loaded in the second frame.
“We had five batters in the first inning and six batters in the second inning, and we couldn’t push a run across,” Donovan said. “We have to have a better approach at the plate. One out with runners on second and third, you have to score a run and put the ball in play. You can’t hit it back to the pitcher. Unfortunately we hit the ball right back to the pitcher a few times in situations with guys on base and less than two outs. We have to score on those. We left a lot of guys on base.”
In the bottom of the third, they pounced on another scoring chance to grab a 1-0 lead. Ouellette (2-for-3, run) roped a one-out single to start the rally and advanced to third base after Barnard reached on an infield error. Anthony Nikolakakis (0-for-3, RBI) grounded into a 5-4 fielder’s choice and Ouellette crossed home plate with the game’s first run, giving Lynn a 1-0 lead.
That’s how it stayed through the next 3 1/2 innings but the 1-0 edge was all the run support Curley needed. Curley sent Keene down in order in the top of the fourth and worked his way around a one-out single in the fifth inning.
“We’re going to make the plays for Devin and that’s exactly what we did,” Donovan said. “Devin only walked two guys and we’ll take that. Our goal here as a team is to stay at three walks or under every game. If we do that, we’ll be in the game.”
Lynn added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Danny Lilja drew a one-out walk and stole second base. Curley, helping his own cause, advanced Lilja to third base with a groundout. Jomar Moreta (1-for-2) followed with a sharply hit line-drive that ricocheted off Keene’s shortstop’s glove, allowing Lilja to score Lynn’s second run.
Curley allowed a two-out walk in the top of the sixth and a one-out walk in the top of the seventh but buckled down, with stellar defense on his side, to keep Keene off the board.
Lynn’s game Friday night is the final contest of a triple-header at Fraser. Cape Cod plays PNJ Worcester in the afternoon (1), followed by a tilt between Keene and the winner of Cape Cod/PNJ Worcester (4).