by Steev Riccardo
OXFORD – Oxford sophomore Dan Caissie delivered the goods, driving home Dennis Sneade with a pinch hit RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Pirates a dramatic walk-off 3-2 win over the Bartlett Indians in a tough encounter between the neighboring towns’ schools.
The game featured a good pitching duel between Pirates senior ace right-hander Nick Cardoni and rookie left-hander freshman John Hughes, who sparkled in his varsity debut performance on the mound.
Senior Steven Brennan knocked home Hughes with a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth, breaking a scoreless tie and giving the Indians a 1-0 lead.
Nick Bates tied it up for the Pirates with an RBI single in the fifth, making it 1-1.
Indians’ senior Kelly Chisholm singled home Evan Anderson with the go-ahead run in the sixth, giving the Indians a 2-1 lead and a chance to pull off a surprise win.
James Sheehan sacrificed home Cardoni in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at 2-2. Chisholm also made an outstanding catch in centerfield that kept the game tied for the Indians.
Caissie then won the game with his heroics, driving home the winning run over Indians’ reliever junior Justin Caro.
Pirates’ Coach Justin Richards gave his team a loud talking-to on the sidelines in the fourth inning and commented on it afterwards. “It’s early in the year and seeing how they reacted, their mentality, and I wasn’t happy. Not the fact that it was 0-0 at the time, I wasn’t happy at how they were approaching their pitcher from the plate and I think we weren’t making any adjustments and we had talked about that at depth in practice. There are different ways to reach out to kids and get them to play at their best of their abilities and I don’t do that a lot.”
Richards went on to praise the Indians’ Hughes for his gutsy performance against a strong Pirates lineup. “Facing a lefty for the first time is always tricky until you get used to it. He (Hughes) knew what he was doing.”
“For someone that didn’t throw overly hard he was mixing his pitches and changing his locations and he was a smart pitcher and that may go unnoticed to a random fan watching,” said Richards. “He knew what he was doing for a freshman and I just told their coach that he is going to be good.”
On Caissie’s winning pitch hit, Richards said, “I tell the young kids to seize the opportunity when they come up and he certainly did.”
Bartlett coach Jon Way was disappointed with the loss, but happy with the job his freshman pitcher did. “He did a phenomenal job, we told him that this wouldn’t be the biggest game he pitched in his life and it’s not. He’s a competitor but he mixed his pitches, he hit all his spots, kept them off balance. and trusted his teammates.”
As far as the heartbreaking loss goes, Way said, “We can’t hang our hat on this game, it would have been incredible to win and we should have. They came back and they fought hard and they stayed in it and they ultimately won in the seventh. There were a couple of routine plays that we didn’t make and we should have and it cost us.”
Cardoni looked sharp in his first start, striking out five batters and giving seven hits while earning the victory.
Later in the week the Pirates lost a tough 3-2 game to a very good Auburn team.
They have a couple 11 a.m. games this coming week when they face Leicester at home today on April 17 and travel to Hopedale on Friday.