Freni & Portes Give Chiefs 1-0 Lead in Championship Series
- Bruce Tilman for the Andre Chiefs
The Chiefs took the opening game of the Intercity League’s Best of Five Championship Series with a 4-2 win over the Lexington Blue Sox at Maplewood Park on Monday night.
If you were caught in traffic or simply arrived a few minutes late to the yard, you probably missed all the scoring.
There was nothing new in the pitching department for the Chiefs. Jared Freni overcame a rocky second inning to toss five consecutive scoreless frames. The right-hander earned his twelfth straight decision of the year and his second straight in the postseason.
Freni started strong and struck out both Tommy Bourdon and Steve Gath to end the Blue Sox first inning.
The Chiefs touched up Blue Sox starter Borja Jones-Berasaluce for a first inning run to give their ace a 1-0 lead. Tony Serino drew a leadoff walk and the Chiefs played some immediate small ball when Tony Deshler sacrificed him to second. Juan Portes (pictured at right) made that move pay a quick dividend when he doubled to deep center to score Serino. When the Blue Sox cut the throw back to the infield they caught Portes with a wide turn at second and veteran shortstop Steve Gath tagged him out for the second out. Peter Copa drew a walk but Mike Andre lined out to center to end the inning.
The Blue Sox came right back to take a 2-1 lead off Freni in the top of the second inning. Danny Graham drew a leadoff walk and Dave Ahern dropped a single to left. Lexington played a little small ball of their own when Josh Klimkiewicz moved both runners up with a sacrifice bunt. Tommy Haugh was next and he lined a single to left that scored Graham to tie the game at 1-1. With runners on the corners and one out, Northeastern catcher John Puttress pushed a suicide bunt towards Freni that easily scored Ahern putting the Sox up 2-1. Lexington left two runners on base when Tommy McKenna and Ross Curley both flew out to Deshler in leftfield.
The Chiefs scored the last three runs of the game in the bottom of the second inning. Nate Witkowski got things started with a line single to left. Jones-Berasaluce then struck out Paul Yanakopoulos and Mike Barbati, both looking, for the first two outs of the inning. Catcher Nick Leva then hit a ball deep into the shortstop hole. Gath went far to his right, came up with grounder, but threw low to first allowing Leva to reach and sending Witkowski to third. Serino followed and lined an opposite field single down the left field line to score Witkowski, tying the game at 2-2. Deshler then singled to right-center, scoring Leva, to put the Chiefs in front for good at 3-2. Portes (pictured left) drove home the game’s final run when he lined a single to left scoring Serino to make it a 4-2 ballgame. Jones-Berasaluce got Copa to lineout to Gath to send the game to the third inning.
The Blue Sox got Graham to second base with two outs in the top of the third when he beat out a high chopper infield single and a wild pitch. Freni kept it 2-1 game when Ahern grounded out to Portes at shortstop with Copa making a run saving pickup of his low throw ending the inning.
Andre led off the Chiefs’ third with a line single to right but nothing came of it after Jones-Berasaluce got Witkowski, Yanakopoulos and Barbati on three consecutive infield grounders.
Freni got the Blue Sox side in order in the top of the fourth and Jones-Berasaluce did the same to the Chiefs in the bottom of the inning.
Lexington made their last run at Freni in the top of the fifth inning after two were out. Tommy Bourdon reached on an infield single to the right side and Gath drew a walk. Freni went full to Graham before striking him on a breaking ball to end the threat.
The Chiefs appeared ready to add to their lead in the bottom of the fifth when Portes was hit by a pitch and Copa singled. But Portes was picked off second when Andre missed a sacrifice bunt attempt. Andre ended up grounding out and Witkowski lined out to,left to end the inning.
Ahern and pinch-hitter Justin Wright both flew out to Yanakopoulos in right and Haugh bounced out to Barbati in Lexington’s uneventful sixth.
Jones-Berasaluce got Yanakopoulos, Barbati, and Leva to ground out in succession in the bottom of the sixth to send the game to the Lexington seventh with the Chiefs leading 4-2.
Freni came out strong and struck out pinch-hitter Jason Twomley and McKenna before getting Ross Curley on a comebacker to end the game.
Freni struck out eight and walked two batters in a 117 pitch complete game effort. Jones-Berasaluce, the righty from Guilford College in North Carolina, surrendered seven hits, struck out three, walked two, and hit a batter.
The Blue Sox and Chiefs will be right back at it on Tuesday night when they meet in Game Two of the series at Lexington High starting at 8:00 PM.
- Information and photo from Andre Chiefs