Luppi, Redmen Open With A Big Win
Tewksbury High baseball team tops Wilmington, 3-2 in season opener.
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Senior first baseman Jeff Rauseo drives in two runs with a two-out triple in the second inning.
Tewksbury High baseball coach Ron Drouin couldn't have asked for anything more on opening day.Seventy-degree temperatures in mid-April, an outstanding defensive effort from his outfield, some timely hitting and a complete game outing from his pitching ace all added up to an exciting, 3-2 opening day win over rival Wilmington at balmy Strong Field on Monday."We'll take it. We were on the ropes quite a few times so to pull out a win is a good thing," Drouin said. "There's only 20 chances to get wins and we're one-for-one, so we'll take it."Matt Luppi, the senior right hander who is headed to the University of Connecticut next year on a baseball scholarship, looked like the player the Huskies recruited as a sophomore and signed before his junior season. Tewksbury's opening day starter overcame a slow start and scattered seven hits over seven innings, while striking out seven and walking only two. Neither of Wilmington's runs was earned.Luppi's performance was an encouraging sign for the Redmen, who struggled to an uncharacteristic 9-11 record last year as Luppi battled a variety of injuries and a nerve issue that robbed him of his velocity and limited his innings."(Luppi) had a lot of bad luck last year and he didn’t finish many times," Drouin said. "He needed to be able to go out there and get the last three outs and close out the deal and be a front line, number one guy that you can count on every week to throw seven innings and get a W."And that's exactly what happened as Luppi got stronger and stronger as the game went on, retiring the side in order in two out of his last three innings and allowing just one hit over the final three frames. "It feels good," said Luppi afterward. "It's a relief to get one under the belt and I'll build on that and go from there. Until the ball comes out of my hand the way I want it to, I don't want to say everything's great, but I'm definitely feeling a lot better."Luppi gave up four ringing singles in the first two innings and fell behind 1-0 when Wilmington left fielder Mike Ciampa drove in Chris Frissotte with a two-out RBI single in the top of the second.But Tewksbury took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second when senior first baseman Jeff Rauseo scorched a two-out line-drive triple into the gap in right center to score Cam Oliveira and Sean Connolly.Luppi gave one back in the third when Wilmington starting pitcher Sean Hanley doubled home lead-off man Vinny Scifo to tie the game at 2-2. The Wildcats looked like they had a rally going with two men on and one out, but Luppi fanned Frissotte and Tewksbury second baseman Joe Hulme made a nifty play on a sharply-hit grounder by Andy Owen to get Luppi out of the jam.The Redmen came back and took the lead for good in the bottom of the third when lead-off man Chris Andella reached on an error, stole second and went to third on an infield out. Oliveira then laced a line drive into straightaway center that was caught, but not in time to prevent Andella from tagging up and coming home with the eventual winning run.Luppi and the Tewksbury defense closed the door after that, as the big right-hander got himself out of trouble in the fourth by starting an inning-ending, 1-2-3 double play on a hard comebacker to the mound.Luppi got stronger and stronger over the final three innings, facing only one batter over the minimum thanks to a spectacular defensive play by senior right hander Ryan White in the Wilmington sixth. With one out and a man on third, White ranged all the way to the right field line to snag a fly ball off the bat of Wilmington's Mark Pother. White then fired a strike to Tewksbury catcher Rob Wallace, who tagged out Owens as he tried to slide home with the tying run after tagging up at third."I've been touting our athleticism all spring long," said Drouin. "Connolly makes a full out diving catch, Andella makes a sliding catch and Whitey hustles to the line and throw's a laser. I mean, we've got good athleticism in the outfield, and that shows.""Our defense made some huge plays, and those are pick-me-ups," agreed Luppi. "When you're sort of tired or you're getting down, those plays pick you up and get you going."In the top of the seventh, Luppi sat the Wildcats down in order and the Redmen had their first win and their ace was back on top again."He (Luppi) struggled a little bit but he never really buckled," Drouin said. "He was a front line guy. He probably didn't have his best stuff, but he fought through it and got it done."The Redmen will host Dracut on Wednesday and Austin Prep on Friday.
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