By HAROLD RIVERA
SAUGUS — When a pitcher is throwing strikes, it’s usually tough for the opposing team to pull out a win. When a pitcher is throwing strikes and leading the team at the plate, it becomes even tougher.
That was the theme of Gloucester’s 4-2 win over Saugus at World Series Park on Monday. Gloucester starting pitcher Marc Phinney tossed 5 2/3 strong innings and went 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBI.
“He (Phinney) has pitched a lot for us, the way the schedule’s worked out he’s made four starts for us now,” Fishermen coach Bryan Lafata said. “He’s a senior, a captain, three-year varsity player. He doesn’t wow you, but he hits his spots. He definitely was our leader today.”
Monday’s game was tied 2-2 heading into the top of the seventh inning, before Phinney brought home Matt Smith with the go-ahead run. Two batters later, Gloucester added an insurance run with a single off the bat of Jack Sperry, scoring Liam Lyons for the 4-2 advantage.
The loss puts Saugus at 2-5 on the season, and is especially tough on the Sachems given the performance they received from pitcher Steve Ruggiero. Ruggiero threw six innings and fanned seven Gloucester batters.
“Ruggiero pitched a good game,” Sachems coach Joe Luis said. “(In the top of the seventh) they had two righties up to bat, eighth and ninth hitters. Ruggiero was over 100 pitches, so we brought in relief.
“He tossed a good game but at 100 pitches, we can only let him go so far,” Luis added. “We can’t let him throw much more than that, it’s a long season.”
The Fishermen took the first lead of the game, 1-0, thanks to an RBI single from Matt Heckman in the top of the second inning. Sal Costanzo led off the inning with a single and advanced to second after Jeremy McCollum was hit by a pitch. Costanzo then took third on a passed ball and scored on Heckman’s RBI single.
Saugus tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom half of the frame. Nick Dascoli reached first base on an error to start the rally. A pair of walks drawn by Jimmy Alcott and Justin Horvath loaded the bases for Paul Stamatopoulos, who tied the game with a sacrifice fly to center.
The Sachems threatened for more, but Phinney forced a 6-4-3 double-play to end the inning with no further damage.
The game remained tied at 1-1 until Gloucester reclaimed the lead in the top of the fifth. Ryan Strescino singled to start the inning. Pinch-runner Nate Young advanced to second after a single from Heckman. A double-steal placed runners on second and third, with no outs, for Phinney. The pitcher’s sacrifice fly to center scored Young to give Gloucester a 2-1 edge.
A solo home-run from Dascoli in the bottom of the sixth gave Saugus life and tied the game at 2-2. Dascoli’s blast cleared the fences in left-center, good for his first home run of the season.
“That was big,” Luis said. “We had a chance, possibly, to get the winning run in the seventh if we hold them in the top of the inning, but it is what it is.”
Gloucester scored twice in the seventh for the 4-2 win.
“Normally it’s good to win close games,” Lafata said. “Unfortunately every game has been like that for us this year. We’ve had two extra-inning games. Our reliever, Liam Lyons, that’s his third win this season. Marc’s pitching well but he hasn’t gotten the wins. That’s the funny thing about it.”
Both teams are back at it on Wednesday when Gloucester (5-2) battles Salem and Saugus clashes against Danvers.