BEVERLY – Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750 opened the home portion of its 2013 American Legion baseball season in grand fashion Tuesday evening as they swept a double header from visiting Portsmouth Post 23, 10-6 and 10-0 at Fort Frye High School.
Beverly/Lowell spotted Portsmouth three first inning runs in the opener before rallying to win going away and then got a dominating five inning, complete game pitching effort from Marietta High School graduate Evan Sawyer in the night cap.
“It took us a little while to get going in the first game, I think we may have been working through some nerves,” said B/L head coach Todd Engle. “We finally got settled down and responded well.”
Post 389/750 committed no less than three errors in the very first inning of the opener to allow Post 23 to score three unearned runs off of starting pitcher Kordell Antill.
Portsmouth strung base hits by Dalton Kenyan and Tanner Poage around the B/L miscues to grab the early 3-0 lead.
Antill, who pitched Monday night in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference all-star game, completed the first two innings for Engle’s club before giving way to Caldwell High School’s young Kyler McElfresh.
McElfresh managed to keep Portsmouth scoreless in his first three innings of work, allowing BL to chip away at the lead.
“McElfresh did an outstanding job on the mound for us today,’ said Engle. “He pretty much kept us in the game.”
Beverly Lowell cut the lead to one in the bottom of the third off of Portsmouth starting pitcher Brady Knittel as they to used some less than spectacular defense by Portsmouth to score a pair of runs.
With one out Devin Leister and Austin Campbell both reached base on Portsmouth fielding errors and third baseman Ethan Estes made them pay for their miscues with a clutch two-out, two-run double to make it a 3-2 game.
Knittel survived a two on, one out B/L threat in the fourth, but was not as fortunate as Engle’s squad came all the way back by plating four runs in the last of the fifth.
Campbell got things started once again by drawing a lead off walk and Lance Schafer and Estes followed with consecutive singles to load the bases with nobody out.
Jake Ullman then lifted a drive to right field that was misplayed by Portsmouth to tie the score and back-to-back sacrifice flies by Gunnar Smith and Nick Spurr gave B/L their first lead of the game at 5-3.
Ullman came in to score on yet another Post 23 fielding error to make it a 6-3 game going to the sixth.
Portsmouth got a two-out, run scoring single from Alex Shears to cut the lead to three heading to the sixth but Beverly/Lowell knocked out six base hits to score four more times in the sixth to increase their lead to 10-4.
Key hits in the sixth were RBI base hits by Schafer, Ullman, Spurr and Phillip Huffman.
“We did some hitting and running and bunting for hits and it really kind of jump started us I thought,” said Engle, whose team finished an impressive 36-6 one summer ago. “They had a few kids that were playing out of position and we just tried to force the issue.”
Portsmouth scored twice off of Huffman who came on in relief of McElfresh in the final inning, before Ben Barnas came on to get the final two outs and secure the win.
Sawyer took the mound in the nightcap and the former Marietta Tiger was outstanding from the start as the left hander allowed just four hits and fanned 10 Portsmouth hitters while walking none in his complete game victory.
Sawyer, who struggled to get any kind of run support at all in his senior season at MHS, got plenty as B/L scored three times in the bottom of the first before blowing things wide open in the fourth inning.
Schafer led off the first for Post 389/750 with a bullet over the center field fence for a home run and the first run of the game and a ground out by Spurr and a RBI single by Antill made it 3-0.
Estes delivered an RBI single in the second to stake Sawyer to a 4-0 lead and the south paw seemed to get stronger as the game went on as he struck out the side in the fourth inning and fanned a pair of Portsmouth hitters in each of the first, the third and the fifth innings.
“I felt better today than I have so far this season and my teammates made all the plays behind me,” said Sawyer. “I had control of all of my pitches and I was able to keep the ball down.”
Engle was impressed with Sawyer’s performance.
“When Evan is doing his thing and moving the baseball around like he was tonight, he can be pretty unhittable,” said Engle.
B/L collected four hits and five runs in the fourth inning and finished things off by scoring the 10th and decisive run of the game on a double by Schafer and an RBI single by Ullman in the last of the fifth.
After starting the season 0-5, B/L (3-5) has now won three games in a row and Engle sees his young team showing improvement on a daily basis.
“All in all I’m pleased with our effort and I think we’ve got a lot to build upon after tonight,” said Engle.
Beverly Lowell will be right back in action tonight as they travel to St. Marys to take on Post 70 in another twin bill scheduled for a 6 p.m. start.