Smith Hurls Bucs to Home Opener Victory

© Justin Reidy
© Justin Reidy

BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – It might have taken six tries, but the first game on Hendy Field's new turf surface was a memorable one as Matt Smith turned in his best pitching performance of the year to lead Massachusetts Maritime Academy over visiting Becker, 5-0. Billy Keane collected four hits and Connor Kennedy stroked three of his own as the Buccaneers won their third game in-a-row and improved to 6-6.

Smith (Lowell, Mass.) looked in command from the start, ending a 1-2-3 first with a punch out, but Mike Iacovelli looked to be his match in the bottom half of the frame. Both teams put runners on base in the second, but each rally was ended with a double play.

MMA finally struck in the third as Kennedy singled to center and Furnas was plunked. Logan Sullo (Acushnet, Mass.) continued his hot hitting with a double to right field to plate Kennedy (West Barnstable, Mass.), while Casey Furnas (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Sullo came round on consecutive sacrifice flies.

The three-run lead would be more than enough for Smith, who worked quickly and never looked like he would run into trouble, even when working out of jams in the fourth and eighth.

Maritime added an insurance run in the fifth after Keane (Braintree, Mass.) ripped a two-bagger to deep center and scored on a Becker error. Smith hardly needed it, setting down nine consecutively between the fifth and eighth.

In his final frame, the sophomore struck out the first batter before losing Coby Hussey on a full-count walk. Chris Testa then singled to right center to put two on, but Smith concluded his night with the best play of the game, fielding a tough grounder to the left side of the mound, firing to third baseman Nate Anderson, who whipped across to Jackson Simone for the 1-5-3 double play. Smith gave a ferocious fist pump, roaring his praise to the infield as he skipped off the field.

The final run came in the bottom of the frame. With two down, Kennedy doubled for the second time in the game and Furnas drove him in with a safety up the middle. Brian Kwedor slammed the door with a three-pitch inning and Opening Day was in the books.

"It doesn't get any better than that," exclaimed Head Coach Mike Kelley, who was named Acting Athletic Director on Monday. "Matt was hitting his spots and had great control. With pitching like that, we are hard to beat. We swung the bats as well and manufactured all the runs that Smith needed. Plus, our D played well behind him."

Smith improved to 1-3 on the year, allowing only five hits and three walks over his eight frames. The sophomore continued his pattern of high strikeout outings, whiffing eight to run his season total to 25 in 22 2/3 innings, fifth in the MASCAC. His 9.93 strikeouts per nine innings is ninth.

Iacovelli (1-2) took the loss, surrendering three earned runs on eight hits in five frames. The righty did not walk a batter and struck out one. Jack Snyder (two shutout innings) and Christopher Ladou (one run in one inning) finished off the game for the DirtHawks.

No player had more than one hit for Becker, while Hussey reached twice on free passes. On the other hand, Keane led an offense that banged out 12 hits, striking out only twice. Furnas reached base four times on two singles and two hit-by-pitches, while Kennedy had a pair of doubles. Furnas, the team's shortstop, handled seven chances flawlessly in the field, wowing the crowd with a cannon of a right arm.

"The more we can get on the field, the better for us," concluded Kelley. "We'll be back out here tomorrow against Tufts.

The single game against Tufts University (5-4) is due to start at 3 p.m. at Hendy Field. Admission is free and all are welcome to cheer on the Bucs.

On Monday, Senior Logan Sullo and Freshman Mason Ashburn were listed on MASCAC's Weekly Honor Roll for their performances at Clark University on Sunday. Sullo went 3-for-7 with two home runs, two walks, four RBI and three runs scored in the Buccaneers' doubleheader sweep. Ashburn threw a complete game, allowing three hits, two earned runs with six strikeouts in the Buccaneers' 7-3 win in the nightcap.

In the meantime, stay tuned to www.mmabucs.com for all the latest Buccaneer news.

Gabriel Fidler, Sports Information Associate