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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
After finishing the regular season 16-2 and winning District Six West by daylight, Walpole Legion Post 104 hosted Foxboro Post 93 in the opening round of the district playoffs on Friday evening.
Behind six innings of shutout ball from staff ace and rising senior Cam Schlittler, Walpole earned a 6-0 victory to move into the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
Bryan Kraus drew first blood for Walpole in the bottom of the first when the clean-up man launched a double deep to left field to plate Charlie Auditore from first, who reached on a walk with one out.
Schlittler opened up the second inning with a strikeout before surrendering a single, but fought back with a 1-6-3 double play on a chopper back to the mound to get out of the frame with the lead still intact.
Walpole was sent down in order with a trio of groundouts in the bottom of the second, but Schlittler once again made quick work of Foxboro in the top of the third by striking out one, then inducing a fly to right and a pop to first.
Dylan Hanifin led off the bottom of the third for Walpole with an infield hit. Auditore then cranked a triple into the left-center field gap to bring in Hanifin and double Walpole’s lead to 2-0. John Brady reached on a walk after a pair of strikeouts to put runners at the corners with two away, but Brady was gunned down attempting to steal to end the inning.
Schlittler allowed a single to lead off the top of the fourth, but followed it up with a 5-4-3 double play before inducing a pop to first get out of the inning. Matt Donato reached on a hit-by-pitch to put a man on with one away for Walpole in the bottom of the fourth, but a pair of fly outs by Aidan Murray and Matt Falvey ended the inning.
Schlittler struck out a pair in the top of the fifth. After two men reached with a pair of singles, Schlittler forced a pop up back to the mound to preserve the 2-0 lead heading into the home half.
Hanifin led off the inning with his second infield hit of the evening before advancing to second on a wild pitch. Auditore drew a walk to put men at first and second for McLean, who reached on an error at second to load the bases. Kraus struck out swinging, but Brady was able to draw a walk to force home a run and make it a 3-0 game. Tyler Page grounded into a fielder’s choice at short to force home another run, and another run came in after a throwing error to first to make it 5-0.
Foxboro put men at first and second with one out in the top of the sixth, but Schlittler again forced his opposition into a double-play, this time a 6-4-3, thanks to a nice stab at short by Aidan Murray. Walpole made it out of the inning unscathed.
Auditore singled home Hanifin in the bottom of the sixth to extend the lead to 6-0. Conor Brady came in and shut the door in the top of the seventh with a pair of fly outs and a strikeout to end it, and Walpole advanced with the 6-0 win.
“Couldn’t have been any better,” said Walpole coach Lee Delaney on the victory. “Got a couple of early runs and Cam [Schlittler] was throwing strikes. Nice first win in a tournament where pitching is going to be at a premium. Cam was very efficient with his pitches and he gave us a solid six [innings]. First two games are extremely important in this tournament, and we’re happy to get that first one.”
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.