Jared Freni (pictured, right) spun a six-hitter to lead the Chiefs to a 6-0 win over the Lexington Blue Sox in Game One of the Intercity League’s best of five championship series.
The big right-hander was solid from start to finish, striking out eleven batters.
The game remained scoreless, although both teams had their chances, over the first two and one-half innings.
The Blue Sox got two men aboard in the top of the first inning on a leadoff single by Jeff Vigurs and a two out single from Dave Ahearn. Freni struck out Dan Graham looking to end the inning.
Lefty starter Jimmy Hill set the Chiefs down in order in the bottom of the first inning.
It was three up and three down for the Blue Sox in the top of the second and Hill kept the Chiefs off the board in their half of the frame.
The Blue Sox threatened and loaded the bases in the top of the third inning after two were out. Ross Curley drew a walk on a 3-1 pitch. Steve Gath followed and singled deep into the shortstop hole. Freni then walked Ahearn on a count full to load the bases before striking out Graham to keep the scoreboard showing blanks.
The Chiefs broke through and took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third. Mike Barbati led off and reached on error by Hill when he missed first base covering on a grounder to Tommy Haugh. After a couple of missed sacrifice bunt attempts, Hill struck out Mike Burgoyne for the inning’s first out. Tony Serino was next and he legged out an infield single to the right side. Hill stayed tough and chalked up his second strikeout of the inning when he got Paul Yanakopulos swinging. The Chiefs got what proved to be the game winner when Juan Portes singled to center, scoring Barbati. Cleanup hitter Johnny Welch gave the Chiefs a 2-0 lead when he lined a double down the leftfield line that scored Serino and sent Portes to third. Hill got a big out when he struck out Gedman looking at a pitch on the outside corner that ended the inning.
Both teams got a runner to second base in the fourth inning. In the top half, the Blue Sox got a leadoff single from Justin Silvestro and he was sacrificed to second by Will Marcal. Freni kept the shutout intact by getting Haugh to ground to Barbati at second and then striking out Tommy McKenna on a 2-2 breaking ball. Similar scenario for the Chiefs in the bottom of the inning. Peter Copa drew a walk and Mike Andre moved him up a base with a bunt. Copa was stranded at second when Hill struck out Barbati and then retired Burgoyne on a hard liner to Ahearn in right.
The Blue Sox got Curley to second base in the fifth after he singled sharply to left with one out and then advanced into scoring position on a passed ball. Burgoyne then made the co-defensive play of the night and the inning when he went a long way to track down a Gath fly ball down the leftfield line for the second out of the inning. Ahearn was next and Copa turned in the second defensive gem of the inning when he made a big pickup of low Welch throw to retire the side.
The Chiefs threatened to add to their lead in the bottom of fifth. After Serino grounded out to Gath, Yanakopulos singled to left-center. Portes was next up he was called out on strikes for the second out. When the Chiefs’ shortstop he protested the call, he was ejected by home plate umpire Rick Cacciatore. It stayed a two run game when Hill got Gedman to fly to Marcal in left.
After issuing leadoff walk to Graham in the sixth, Freni bore down and struck out Silvestro, Marcal and Haugh, in order, to end the inning.
The Chiefs came up with four two out runs to give Freni some more breathing room in the home half of the inning. After Hill retired Copa and Andre, Barbati kept the inning alive with a single to right. Burgoyne followed and lined a single to center with Barbati moving to second. Serino then drew a full count walk, on a close pitch, to load the bases for Yanakopulos. The Chiefs’ catcher delivered when he singled to center, scoring both Barbati and Burgoyne, for a 4-0 lead. On the throw home to try and get Burgoyne, Yanakopulos went to second. That was the evening for Hill as righty Chris Law came out of the Lexington bullpen. Nate Witkowski, who took over at shortstop after Portes’ ejection, then hit a grounder over the third base bag then was gloved by Curley. Curley came up with the ball but skipped the throw low to Haugh at first with both Serino and Yanakopulos coming across the plate to make it 6-0. The play was scored as an infield single and an RBI for Witkowski and a throwing error. Law then struck out Welch to end the inning and send the game to the top of the seventh.
Freni caught McKenna looking at strike three for the first out before Vigurs lined an opposite field single to left. Curley legged out the backend of a doubleplay ball to Witkowski at short that forced Vigurs at second, to keep the game alive. Gath then drew a full count walk before Ahearn flew out to Serino in center to put the series opener in the win column.
With the win, Freni’s overall 2014 record jumps to 10-2, including 2-0 in the postseason.
Hill took loss for the Blue Sox and saw his season mark drop to 5-2, 0-1 in the playoffs.
Game Two is scheduled for Thursday night at Morelli Field at 8:00 PM.
(Bruce Tillman, Bruce Hack-Stats & Boxcore, www.Pointsreak.com, Photo by Jim Valente)