Sam Donovan’s pitching dominated the game, to the tune of a two-hit complete game shutout.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
A complete game two-hitter from left-hander Sam Donovan gave the newly-named Timberwolves a 3-0 win on Friday night, which moved Walpole to 2-0 on the season and dropped Needham to 0-2. But while Needham struggled at the plate, Coach Rich Raymond saw a lot of positives the Rockets could take from the game. As for the Timberwolves, it has been the young team’s effort that has stood out most to Coach Chris Costello at the beginning of the season.
If you’d only seen the first inning of the game, you’d have expected a much higher run total. Early on, a Needham double and walk eventually left a runner on third base with two outs, but Needham couldn’t convert. Neither could Walpole in their at bat, stranding a runner on third as well. Needham left another runner stranded on third in the second inning, thanks to a very nice play from Walpole third baseman Nick Famagletti, who stopped a ground ball on the left field line that could have been trouble.
Walpole scored lone runs in the third, fourth and sixth to take a 3-0 lead, while Sam Donovan’s pitching seemed to improve as the game went on, including a 1-2-3 inning in the fourth featuring one of his nine strikeouts on the day. Needham made a pitching change in the sixth, with their new reliever forcing a flyout with the bases loaded to keep the game within reach. However, they stranded a man on second during their subsequent at bat, and soon found Walpole runners on first and third. Another pitching change happened with Needham's third pitcher entering the game, and the inning ended with a runner thrown out at home on a ground ball, and a double play on a pop fly to the right fielder who threw the base runner, who'd been sprinting to second base, out at first.
In the final inning, Donovan got a strikeout, gave up a walk, then had a mound visit. One more strikeout and a groundout to Famagletti, and the game was over, 3-0. But the mound visit was interesting. Was Coach Chris Costello thinking about pulling Donovan in the last inning?
“Oh no. No, no, no," he declared after the game. "I just went out to tell him this was where we needed his best. It’s his game to win or lose, he earned that right and he was going to finish regardless of what happened. We have trust in him.”
Coach Costello has trust in a lot of his players, mainly because above all else, he is proud of how hard this team works, despite not having had a chance to play last year.
“Without the season last year, a lot of these guys weren’t able to establish themselves, but that being said, a lot of them had really good summers in preparation. I told my guys this is the hardest working team I’ve had since I’ve been coaching. I’ve been here for 25 years and it’s probably the most dedicated team in terms of baseball that I’ve seen. So their preparation for the season has shown in the first two games. Donno, he’s pretty good and I think we saw that today. A two hit shutout in this league is something to be proud of.”
Outside of his pitcher, Coach Costello noted Corey Kilroy's work calling and catching the game, and Jake Preto’s fielding, which showed a maturity level since he had a tough day at the plate as the leadoff man, but didn’t let it affect him defensively. That maturity level is very important, because Coach Costello explained the team is young, comprised mostly of sophomores.
While Coach Costello didn’t get into specifics about Donovan’s performance, Needham Coach Rich Raymond did. Although he was quick to point out that his team fought hard in the batter’s box, he had to give all sorts of credit to Donovan.
“Their pitcher did a good job. He was able to, especially the second and third time around against our lineup, he was able to mix in his secondary pitches, especially against our left handers he was able to throw a little breaking ball, keep guys off balance. He mixed in a little changeup and a two seam with his natural arm side run. And he pulled up the strike zone enough where he just kept our guys off balance. I thought our guys competed in the box. There were a couple of times when we struck out looking, especially with guys on base, but they played great defense. And all the credit in the world to their pitcher; he stayed out there and gutted it out, and he was able to throw a complete game, but our guys showed some toughness in the box. I think this is a good stepping stone for our team going forward.”
While Raymond noted the success of Walpole’s starting pitcher, he was quick to point out the success of his own group of pitchers as well.
“There were a lot of positives. Nico Schwartz on the mound today really gave us everything he had. He wanted the ball. We had a few miscues behind him that led to a couple of runs individually, but he was able to continue to make pitches. Ben coming in out of the bullpen in the sixth inning was able to limit the damage and get us out of that jam with runners on base. So I thought there were a lot of positives all around, especially form a pitching perspective. I thought we did a really good job on the mound today, competing against a good Walpole team.”