Hall High ace George Lund hadn’t even realized the scope of what he accomplished after the conclusion of a memorable clash with New Britain.
Lund stood at second with one out in the fourth inning when Will Cook lashed a shot that seemed destined for center field. Paying little mind to Jeff Billing in the coaching box at third base, Lund raced home.
Little did he know that the Hurricanes’ second baseman Juaniel Santiago made a diving play. The ball never left the infield. Little did he know that the run would be the only one of the game, due in large part to his mastery on the pitcher’s mound.
In addition to his daring dash, Lund fired a two-hit shutout and struck out 11 Wednesday to give the Warriors a taut 1-0 victory over the resolute Hurricanes in a CCC West drama at the Hall High field.
The teams were scoreless through three frames when Lund reached on a single in the hole, one of just three hits allowed by New Britain starter Greg Boncek. Lund took second on a fielder’s choice grounder by Tom Rose. Everyone in the yard thought Cook’s smash would skip into center but Santiago, a sophomore brought over from the junior varsity, made one of three stunning plays.
New Britain first baseman Roderick Green, also a sophomore, was so sure the ball would go through that he was in the process of lining up an anticipated cut-off throw from the outfield. The process of Green scurrying back to the bag allowed Cook to reach safely and Lund time to score.
“Coach [Billing] told me runs were going to be scarce so we had to take big leads off second. Base hit, we’ve got to score from second. We’re not going to get to third much,” Lund said. “Will ripped it up the middle. I didn’t even see it go through.”
Billing said Santiago’s play had everyone fooled.
“I was already down the line expecting I would have to make a decision and George just read it on his own,” he said. “I was saying hold and look and George just ran right through.”
New Britain (1-4, 0-2 CCC West) threatened twice but Lund overpowered hitters to escape unscathed.
In the first inning, Nick Rodriguez reached on a slow chopper inside the bag at third and Nestor Velazquez walked, but Lund fanned Kenny Noyola and Dylan Heath.
With two out and the bases empty in the seventh, the resilient Hurricanes refused to fall without a fight. Catcher Kevin Dukes walked and Tyler Gamber came in to pinch-run. Designated hitter Brendan Emmons walked and was replaced by Raffy Gonzalez. The aggressive ’Canes, who swiped six sacks without getting caught, pulled off another double steal.
“That was the plan – to be aggressive on the bases and if the opportunity arises we can squeeze or advance guys, but we didn’t have too many opportunities,” New Britain coach Roberto Mercado said. “You’ve got to give [Lund] a lot of credit. He spotted the fastball well. He’s by far the best pitcher we’ve seen this year.”
Robert Turka, on to pinch-hit, went down swinging to end it.
Accepting defeat is not in Mercado’s makeup, but the second-year coach was encouraged by his club’s superb defense and will to win.
“[Our defense] had been hurting us these last couple games and we focused on defense [Tuesday] for three or four hours and it showed,” Mercado said.
His stream of praise began with his defense up the middle. Santiago showed remarkable range and Rodriguez, a junior shortstop, displayed a powerful arm and made good decisions. Dukes excelled behind the plate.
Hall (5-1, 2-0) had runners on first and second with nobody out in the second inning when Dukes pounced on T.J. Cook’s bunt and fired to third for the force. Moments later, Rodriguez snuck in behind Will Cook (2-for-2, RBI) at second and Boncek threw him a strike for a successful pickoff.
Boncek walked two and struck out one, relying on the defense to keep the Warriors off the board. Lund’s performance didn’t require much defense except what catcher T.J. Cook provides.
“I was throwing strikes through the first six innings. I was cruising, but in the seventh inning I ran into trouble,” Lund said. “Our defense was great. T.J. did a great job behind the plate.”
Both of New Britain’s safeties were of the infield variety. Only two balls left the infield, lazy flies to center that Dan Nunes easily ran down.
Billing was captivated by New Britain’s effort.
“They played a phenomenal game,” he said. “We hit some balls hard. That middle infield. Whew!”
Hall 1, New Britain 0
|Boncek p||3||0||0||0||Becker ss||3||0||0||0|
|Rodriguez ss||3||0||1||0||Nunes cf||3||0||0||0|
|Velazquez cf||2||0||0||0||Lund p||2||1||1||0|
|Noyola 3b||3||0||0||0||Rose 1b||3||0||0||0|
|Heath lf||3||0||0||0||WCook 2b||2||0||2||1|
|Dukes c||2||0||0||0||Kelley lf||1||0||0||0|
|Gamber pr||0||0||0||0||TJCook c||2||0||0||0|
|MGonzalez dh||1||0||0||0||Dobbins 3b||2||0||0||0|
|Santiago 2b||0||0||0||0||Monos rf||1||0||0||0|
|Emmons dh||1||0||0||0||Spring ph||1||0||0||0|
New Britain 000 000 0 – 0 2 1
Hall 000 101 x – 1 3 0
E – Noyola. LOB – New Britain 4, Hall 3. SB – Rodriguez,
Velazquez, Aleman, Dukes, Gamber, R. Gonzalez. CS – Nunes.
ip h r er bb so
Boncek L 6 3 1 1 2 1
Lund W 7 2 0 0 3 11
WP – Boncek. T – 1:44.
Records – New Britain 1-4 (0-2 CCC West); Hall 5-1 (2-0)