D'Andrea deals as Pats down Hawks

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Pilgrim displayed why any team should fight until the very end with its performance on Tuesday.

Down four runs right out of the gate against Hendricken, the Pats fought back behind a stellar pitching effort from senior right-hander Zachary D’Andrea and a five-run offensive outburst in the bottom of the fifth en route to a 5-4 victory.

After surrendering four unearned runs in the top of the first, D’Andrea settled in, shutting down the Hawks the rest of the way, striking out nine, including the final five batters of the game.

“I definitely felt stronger at the end,” D’Andrea said of his strong finish to the game. “We had a few errors at the beginning, some mistakes were me with some pitches. I got better throughout the game and we ended up scoring some runs, so it was good.”

The victory pushed the Pats one game ahead of the Hawks in the Division I standings, as both teams came into Tuesday at 5-5.

“It was a tale of two different games,” Pilgrim head coach Nolan Landy said. “We hand them a lead by not being able to catch a baseball, and we very easily got down and were flat. We were for an inning or two, and then we picked it back up and started making things happen. We played some cleaner defense, and were able to pull one out.”

Hendricken gained momentum a few pitches into the game when leadoff hitter Billy Roberge advanced to second after a pair of errors in the infield, and he came around to score on a double by catcher Jordan Carvalho.

Two batters later, David Bordieri singled home Ernesto Espinal, before Andrew Hopgood muscled a double into the outfield to clear the bases, plating Carvalho and Bordieri to give the Hawks a 4-0 lead after a half of an inning.

Pilgrim looked for a quick answer, but had no success early against Hendricken left-hander Matt Smaldone.

The Pats didn’t get their first baserunner until the bottom of the third, with Michael Hampson drawing a leadoff walk and making it all the way to third base, but Smaldone got Jacob Resendes to fly out to right field to escape the frame.

Pilgrim started to get some better swings in the fourth off Smaldone. Evan Blanchard registered Pilgrim’s first hit of the day with one down, and Kyle Denis followed with a single of his own to put multiple runners on base for the first time.

However, Smaldone was once again able to maneuver his way out of the inning by retiring the next two Pilgrim hitters.

“I knew we were going to hit against these guys, we just needed someone to spark it,” Landy said. “We needed a few guys to string together hits. We were able to do that and build on it.”

Junior centerfielder Evan O’Connor ignited that spark in the bottom of the fifth with a one-out single that would generate a rally for the home squad.

Matt Woods followed by turning on an inside pitch and driving it to right field. He advanced to second when the ball was bobbled in the outfield, putting runners at second and third.

Rob Vaillancourt came in to relieve Smaldone after Woods’ hit, but Pilgrim stayed on the attack.

Resendes came through with a single that plated O’Connor, and Woods raced home on a wild pitch shortly after to cut the deficit in half, 4-2.

Alec Bloomingburgh singled a few pitches later, before Blanchard ripped his second single of the game, scoring Resendes to make it 4-3.

In an attempt to limit the damage, Hendricken went to the bullpen for a second time in the inning, this time bringing in southpaw Randy Reyes with Denis coming to the plate.

However, Denis was able to lift a pitch deep enough into the outfield to plate the tying run with a sacrifice fly.

Bobby Hazelwood capped the inning with a screaming single that brought Blanchard in as the go-ahead run, pushing the Pats in front for the first time, 5-4.

D’Andrea kept the deficit manageable following the first inning, and he came out even stronger after his team gained its first lead, with his confidence and velocity growing with each inning.

He shut Hendricken down in the sixth and seventh innings, fanning the second and third batters he faced in the sixth, while striking out the side in the seventh to nail down the victory.

“He’s our guy,” Landy said of D’Andrea. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the state. He’s our horse and we’re going to ride him until the end. We couldn’t have asked him for anything else. He won the game for us. We were down 4-0 early, it could’ve gotten ugly, but he battled and hung in there. He dominated at the end. He was stronger at the end than the beginning. We couldn’t ask for any more than that.”

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