Westport Legion team in thick of playoff hunt
By Steve Rogers
WESTPORT— The Westport Post 145 Bulldogs used a pair of big innings to subdue New Bedford Post 1 and climb back over the .500 mark with an 11-2 win July 3 in an American Legion District Nine Southern Division clash at Westport High School.
It was the second win in as many nights for the Bulldogs and elevated their third-place record to 8-7. Visiting Post 1, usually near the top of the standings, dropped to 4-8 and remained in the basement.
“It’s a huge win, getting back to 7-7 last night and then having New Bedford who, obviously is down this year,” Westport coach Jay Pacheco said. They’re not what they’ve been in the past but it’s still a huge game.
“It was just what the doctor ordered. We scored 11 last night and came back and scored 11 again. The walks helped but we got double-digit hits too.”
Pacheco, who coached the Bishop Stang baseball team at the same time he was the Westport High School Athletic Director, was a hit off his estimate. Westport actually finished with nine singles, five of which came in a six-run fourth inning and three which came in a five-run sixth frame.
Post 1 pitchers issued seven of their 12 total walks in those two innings, four of which scored. New Bedford took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth before Westport, which left five men on base over the first three innings, had the first seven batters reach base to start the fourth.
“I told them we’re getting the guys on but who’s going to get that big hit,?” Pacheco said. “Who’s going to drive him in and who’s going to get us going? Luckily we responded to it and once we got going we didn’t really stop that much. We got ourselves a bunch of runs.”
Tim Rivet and Brendan Hall started the rally with base hits. After a fielder’s choice loaded the bases, JP Bonanca plated two runs with a single to right. Chad Willard and Jake Friar each drove home a run with a base hit, Friar scored on a wild pitch and Rivet, batting for the second time in the inning, topped a ball in front of home plate which scored the sixth run.
Friar was the lone Westport player to have two hits but seven other Bulldogs had a hit and seven of 10 who played scored at least a run. Bonanca finished with three RBI’s while Friar and Willard drove home two runs each. Left fielder Willard also threw out a runner at the plate to end the fifth inning
Jake Girard pitched a complete game and earned his third victory of the season. He scattered seven hits, allowed just one earned run, struck out five and most importantly, walked just one.
“That’s the key to his outing,” Pacheco said. “So far this summer he’s been good but he’s walked too many. I told him if he gets his walks down, he’ll be giving up one or two runs. Instead he’s been walking five or six and giving up five or six runs. Every time he walks somebody they score.
“I think he’s learning he’s got to throw more strikes. He’s got to get ahead in the count a little bit more. He’s been doing that as the summer gets along and he’s been getting tougher and tougher each time out.”
Offensively this season thus far the Bulldogs have been led by Jack Murphy (.421) and a pair of hitters whom Pacheco never would have guessed would be big contributors. Rivet, a pitcher on the Bishop Stang junior varsity team, was hitting .438 and had 10 walks through 13 games. Nate Maynard was batting .394 with 11 RBI’s.
“Murphy struggled early with the switch to wood,” Pacheco said. “Since then he’s really picked it up. The other two, I never expected them to be leading hitters.
“Tim pitched the last varsity game of the high school season. He was basically a pitcher only and that was my plan for him for Legion. But he started hitting and now I can’t get him out of the lineup.”
Maynard, whom the coach labeled the most beloved player by his teammates and the “loudest kid on the team,” also underwent a transformation from high school to the American Legion season.
“At Stang, Nate Maynard started in left field and went something like 1-for-22. I had to sit him down and talk to him. I don’t know if he took it for granted that because he was a senior he’d be the every-day outfielder. I don’t know if the talk helped but during the Legion season he’s absolutely been on fire. We were 2-and-4 and we went to 6-and-4 and he carried us.”
Westport pitchers have held opponents to three runs or less in seven games, five of which are victories. Pitcher Mitch Winterhalter was 2-0 and had not allowed an earned run during his time on the mound. Winterhalter is the designated Monday pitcher because that’s the only day he can attend games. Girard passed him in wins when he shut down New Bedford.
The offense has been sporadic, twice being shut out and twice being held to one run. But the Bulldogs have scored nine or more runs five times, not surprisingly, all wins for Westport.
“Pitching has been pretty good for the most part,” said Pacheco. “Offensively we go on streaks. We’re just not consistent. It all depends on who you face. Each team has one or two good pitchers they can throw. Then you could also get their No. 5 or No. 6 pitcher. It makes a big difference.”
Heading into the final two weeks of the season Westport had seven games left, one versus Fall River and the other six against Northern Division squads. The Bulldogs record against their remaining foes was 5-2 the first time around.
“We’ve got a make-up game with Fall River and six games against teams from the other side,” said Pacheco. I think we can still do some damage.”
Easton Post 7 seems to be the class of the league this season having rolled to 13 wins in its first 15 games. If Westport finishes in the third and final Southern Division playoff spot, it’s playoff opponent would be Easton.
“Easton is very good. They have three Division-I players and all three can pitch,” Pacheco said. “Playing a three-game series against them would be really tough. We really want to avoid that No. 3 spot.”