Patriots get blanked in season opener
MAU's Ryan O'Neill and Brattleboro's Leif Bigelow both delivered top-notch performances on the mound for their respective clubs.
O'Neill was sensational in his debut, striking out the first four Brattleboro batters that stepped to the plate and also worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning by striking out the side to keep the game scoreless.
"It felt nice to start the season off with a great outing on the mound for the team," O'Neill said. "I got a lot of my strikeouts getting their batters to swing at my high fastball."
O'Neill totaled a game-high 12 strikeouts in eight shutout innings for the Patriots. Like O'Neill, Bigelow was also fantastic on the hill for Brattleboro, being an unhittable force for MAU to deal with.
The University of Connecticut commit kept the Patriot bats at bay during his 7 1/3 innings, picking up 11 strikeouts in the process.
"They threw a very good pitcher at us and he threw a great game against us," said MAU baseball coach Walt Parmenter. "We had some kids that put up some good at-bats, fighting off pitches and putting some solid line drives in play. We just have to continue to get better as the season goes on."
After O'Neill worked out of another bases loaded jam in the top of the eighth inning, senior Brian Grace worked a one-out walk against Bigelow in the bottom half of the inning, knocking the Colonels' starter out of the game.
Looking to take advantage of the Brattleboro pitching move, the Patriots' had no luck against Colonel reliever Eli Lombardi, who struck out both Noah Loomis and O'Neill to end the inning to take the game to the ninth.
Brattleboro pitchers combined to strike out 15 Patriot hitters.
With O'Neill at his pitch count limit, the Patriots made the move to the bullpen and called on junior Blake Carey to take the hill in the ninth.
The start of the inning was not kind for Carey, as he walked the first two hitters. The next hitter, Lombardi, bunted the runners over to give Brattleboro second and third with one out.
Bigelow came up next and smacked a ground ball that went underneath O'Neill's glove at short and into left field for a two-run single to give the Colonels the lead.
"We had a couple miscues there at the end of the game that hurt us," Parmenter said. "I thought Blake tried to be a little too perfect with his pitches early on in the inning and that hurt him with walks. Still thought he threw well in that inning and we played well in the field for the game."
Blake limited the damage to just two runs, but it didn't matter as Lombardi sent the Patriots down in order in the ninth inning to send MAU to its first loss of the season.
The Patriots will look to rebound when they travel to play Hoosick Falls in an out-of-league matchup on Thursday at noon.
Even though a loss to open up the season, Parmenter is very pleased with how his team played in its opening contest.
"We played a good team and battled with them for nine innings," Parmenter said. "Every player on our team played hard and I thought for an season opener that our team played a great game. We just have start just hitting the ball and doing the right things on the field."
Reach sports editor Steven Bassin at 802-447-7567 ext 112 or @SBassin_Banner
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