Lynn’s early lead slips away in loss to Fairfax

AJ Luciano went 1-for-2 with a RBI in Saturday's Babe Ruth World Series opening game. (Item File Photo)

Through the first four innings of Saturday afternoon’s World Series opening game, the Lynn Babe Ruth 16-18-year-old All-Stars had full control over Fairfax County (VA). But five unanswered runs scored by Fairfax to close the game was enough to give it a 5-4 win over Lynn at Russell E. Dietrich, Jr. Park.

“It was a game we should’ve won,” Lynn coach Al Donovan said. “We let them hang around. They got it down to 4-2 and then next thing you know it’s 4-4. We started pressing. They made the plays. Out of our seven hits, four of them came with two outs. You’re not going to score many runs like that.”

At the plate, Lynn was highlighted by performances from AJ Luciano (1-for-2, RBI), Danny Lilja (0-for-2, RBI) and David Barnard (1-for-3, RBI). Devin Curley, who earned the start on the mound for the Lynners, helped his own cause by lacing a pair of singles and finishing 2-for-2 at the plate. Jomar Moreta, Dayshon Anderson and Zach Elwell each went 1-for-3.

Curley, who was named the MVP of the New England Regional tournament, went 3 1/3 innings and allowed four earned runs on seven hits with four strikeouts. Spencer Divergillio followed in relief and pitched 1 2/3 innings, while allowing one earned run on two hits with one strikeout. Nick Reiser tossed one scoreless inning with one strikeout.

“Devin threw OK,” Donovan said. “He left a couple up on the strike zone and they put the bat on the ball. He went 1-2-3 in the first inning and had two strikeouts in the second. He went 1-2-3 in the third. The fourth inning was one of those innings. He was working behind the count on a couple guys.”

After two scoreless innings, the Lynners ran out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the third. Luciano’s RBI single scored Kevin Durant for the game’s first run. Kyle Ouellette raced home on a wild pitch to stretch Lynn’s lead to 2-0. Lilja laid down a suicide-squeeze, scoring Luciano, to boost the lead up to 3-0. Barnard capped the rally with a RBI single, plating Anthony Nikolakakis, for Lynn’s fourth run.

“At that point in time it’s just about execution and scoring more runs,” Donovan said. “We couldn’t push another run. They made the plays and executed. From the fifth inning on, we had two hits and one batter hit by a pitch.

“We needed to get on base sooner than two outs,” Donovan said. “That kind of handcuffed us throughout the game.”

After that it was all Fairfax the rest of the way. The Southeast Region representative erased the 4-0 deficit with five unanswered runs to earn the come-from-behind win. Leading Fairfax at the plate were Ryan Hodinko (2-for-3, 2 RBI), Michael Jones (1-for-3, RBI), Jonathan Braden (0-for-2, RBI), Joey Schantz (0-for-2, RBI) and Justin Blevins (3-for-3).

Hodinko, who roped the go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the fifth, also earned the win on the mound after pitching three scoreless innings in relief.

“He (Hodinko) was their player of the game,” Donovan said. “The game-winning hit and three scoreless innings. Credit to him. He did a great job.”

Scott Bryan threw the first 1 2/3 innings for Fairfax and Blevins followed with 2 1/3 innings of relief. Blevins allowed four earned runs on four hits.

Lynn has a quick turnaround and hopes to regroup in time for Sunday afternoon’s (2:30) game against Bakersfield (CA), the representative from the Pacific Southwest.

“Our guys will be ready,” Donovan said. “They have the taste of playing great competition. Me and coach (Leon) Elwell said ‘hey you need to let that go.’ We pointed at some things we need to improve on. We have to get on base, work the counts a little deeper and put pressure. We have to score runs to pressure the defense.

“It’s a game that slipped by us,” Donovan said. “We’re in good spirits. We had the opening ceremonies a few hours after game. The spirits were up afterward. We just have to compete in all facets of the game.”

Barnard will get the start on the mound in Sunday’s game.

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