MILLBURY, Mass. — The Millbury boys baseball team blanked Leicester High 2-0 behind an outstanding effort from pitcher Luke Bernard on Friday afternoon at Millbury High.
Prior to the game and speaking about their recent two game losing streak, Millbury coach Ron Silvestri, stressed the need for better pitching for the Woolies. Bernard gave them exactly that, going the distance and only giving up four hits while striking out four, including two in the last inning while shutting the door.
Bernard mixed his speeds and pitches and used a devastatingly effective curveball on the outside corner of the plate all game, keeping the Leicester hitters off-balance and either popping the ball up or hitting the ball harmlessly into the ground.
Hard luck loser for Leicester was Rob Hiland who also pitched an outstanding game. Hiland was victimized for two runs in the first and then settled down to pitch very effectively after that. After allowing back to back singles to start the inning to Anthony DiStefano and Justin Brousseau, a passed ball allowed DiStefano to advance to third. Brousseau then attempted to steal second and the throw ended up in centerfield. DiStefano scored and it was 1-0.
Brousseau took third on the play and scored after the next batter, Mike Valastro, hit a sacrifice fly to right field to make it 2-0. After the game, Hiland placed the blame on himself, saying, "I was getting the ball up too high in the first inning and that was what cost us. After that I just tried to keep it down in the zone."
And indeed he did. Hiland and Bernard threw nothing but zeroes up on the scoreboard after that. It was a fantastic pitcher's duel and each was getting solid play in the field.
Hiland ran into trouble in the fourth inning with Millbury loading the bases with nobody out. But he bore down, getting both Joe Kozlowski and Zach Richard to pop out in the infield and then finally getting DiStefano to bounce out to second to escape further damage.
Bernard was the recipient of two double plays, one in the fourth, after Leicester third baseman Casey Callahan legged out an infield single, Hiland hit the ball hard but right into a double play. In the sixth, with a runner on second after a one out single and a stolen base, Leicester's Ryan Petrone lined a ball into the gap. It appeared it would be at least a double and a one run game, but centerfielder Richard dove full out and snagged the ball on the end of his glove. He easily doubled off the runner to end the threat.
Millbury would threaten to score some insurance in the sixth when Hiland appeared to tire. A one out walk and a single brought in reliever Mason Chapman who struck out pinch hitter Ross Sudar and got DiStefano out on a sinking liner to center to end the threat.
But Bernard was re-energized, striking out two in the final inning to put the game away. An excellent, evenly played ball game by both teams.
Millbury returns to action on Monday afternoon at Northbridge while Leicester will play at home against Oxford. Both games start at 3:30 p.m.