Sports

Finnigan, Luciano lead Classical past Saugus

Classical's A.J. Luciano scored a run in Saturday's loss to North Reading. (Item File Photo)

SAUGUS — Kyle Finnigan pitched an absolute gem for the Lynn Classical baseball team and the Rams offense did its job in a 8-0 win over Saugus at World Series Park Friday afternoon.

Finnigan was dominant in the win, scattering just five hits in a complete-game shutout performance.

“Finny pitched lights-out today,” said Classical coach Mike Zukowski. “He hit his spots, was ahead in most of his counts, his curveball was great today and he was locating it well, so it was great seeing him at the top of his game today.”

On the offensive side for Classical, leadoff hitter AJ Luciano led the attack. Luciano went 3-for-4 with four RBI while Danny Lilja (0-for-2) had two RBI and Dayshon Anderson (2-for-3) contributed one RBI.

Saugus, on the other hand, was working with tired arms after playing an 11-inning game Wednesday, meaning that some pitchers who don’t normally take the hill were forced into action.

“With us playing such a long game Wednesday, we had to go to some of our guys who haven’t pitched as much this year,” said Saugus coach Joe Luis. “Give credit to Classical, they hit the ball well and had a great performance on the mound.”

Classical jumped out to an early lead in the top of the second inning. Aidan Dow (2-for-3) led things off with a double, then Anderson executed a perfect slash bunt play. After showing bunt and forcing the Saugus first baseman to charge in (which also forced the second baseman to cover first), Anderson pulled the bat back and slapped an RBI single through the hole and into right field to put the Rams up 1-0.

“We actually put that in a couple of weeks ago in practice because we were struggling a bit at the plate and we were trying to find ways to open up the field a little bit,” said Zukowski. “We got the right look today, decided to try it and Dayshon executed it perfectly.”

Classical loaded the bases with one out for Lilja, who contributed an RBI groundout. Next up was Luciano, who hit a two-run single to go up 4-0 in the second.

Saugus sent runners to second and third with just one out in the bottom of the second. But, as would be the case multiple times in the game, the Sachems just couldn’t get the big hit to knock any runs home.

“We just need to get that timely hitting, and we couldn’t get it today,” Luis said. “We had guys in scoring position three different times and couldn’t come up with the hit. Maybe if we grab a couple runs early and make it a closer game things turn out different, but we never got that spark.”

The score remained at 4-0 until the top of the fifth, when Classical had itself another four-run inning. The Rams loaded the bases once again before a run came home an a passed ball. Lilja was then hit by a pitch to bring home a run and keep the bases loaded for Luciano, who once again came through with a two-run single to make it 8-0 in favor of the Rams.

“We haven’t played with a lead in awhile, so this was nice to jump out early and stay ahead today,” Zukowski said. “We’ve got to try to get that killer instinct back and start putting teams away early, and I think we’re getting closer to that.”

Saugus had another chance to get something going in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases with one out, but once again Finnigan bared down and got out of the jam unscathed.

Finnigan then came out in the bottom of the seventh and finished the game strong, striking out two of the final three hitters he faced in a 1-2-3 inning to seal the win.

It’s starting to become crunch time for both teams, as each needs one more win to secure a berth in the state tournament. Classical (9-7) will look to grab that win Monday against a hot Reading team.

“We’ve just got to keep it rolling,” said Zukowski. “We stressed how important this past week was and we went 3-0 during the week, but we’ve still got to take it one game at a time. Monday will be a big game for us.”

Saugus (9-8) will go for win No. 10 Tuesday against Dracut.

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