WASHINGTON DEPOT — Shepaug Valley (8-1; 8-0 Berkshire League) scrapped for a 2-1 victory over Northwestern (7-1) in a Thursday afternoon clash between Berkshire League leaders who arrived at Washington Depot’s Ted Alex Field with nothing but wins in the league.
It was the kind of game fans expected.
Three pitchers — Northwestern’s Drew Warren and Shepaug’s Dom Perachi and Chance Dutcher — limited potent lineups to a combined nine hits (5-4 Northwestern) with a total of 20 strikeouts (11-9 Shepaug) and six total walks (4-2 Shepaug).
Ultimately, Spartan batters were more efficient, stranding just three base runners to eight for the Highlanders, with two key blows by Shepaug’s Jack Pesce (RBI double and sacrifice fly) finally nipping Joe Grantmeyer’s RBI double for Northwestern.
Nevertheless, there were just enough hits to keep the game riveting for six-and-a-half innings.
“All three pitchers threw very well today,” said Shepaug coach Scott Werkhoven, after standing pat with Spartan starter Perachi through a rough first inning.
“He was getting behind guys. When he gets ahead of them, he’s really effective,” Werkhoven said.
After two quick outs in the top of the first, Perachi (5 innings, 3 hits, 9 strikeouts, 4 walks) walked Warren and gave up Grantmeyer’s double for the game’s first run.
“I was missing my fastball high before I finally got a feel for the fastball and my curve,” said the tall lefthander.
A called third strike for the final out signaled Perachi’s mastery over his curve.
In the bottom of the inning, a strikeout and double play made quick work for Northwestern’s Warren (7 innings, 4 hits, 9 strikeouts, 2 walks) after a walk.
Next inning, Highlander Noah McDonald (2-for-4) poked a two-out hit in the top of the second, but three Perachi strikeouts ended any concerns about his fastball.
Dutcher (2-for-3) started the bottom of the inning with a single. Pesce made it count with his line drive double to left.
Perachi cruised for the next three innings.
Warren hit a snag in the fourth with a leadoff walk to Ethan Hibbard and Dutcher’s second hit. After a fielder’s choice sent Hibbard to third, Pesce was back on cue with a long sac fly to right for the 2-1 lead.
From there, Northwestern batters took Shepaug to the edge of a cliff but no further while Warren allowed just one more Spartan hit.
The Highlanders’ chance came in the top of the sixth inning.
Leadoff batters Grantmeyer and Alberto Cantalini went to first and second on a walk and a hit.
Wekhoven called Dutcher (2 innings, 2 hits, 2 strikeouts, 0 walks) to the mound from center field.
“I was a starter last year; then (Werkhoven) talked to me about being a closer,” said Dutcher, a senior righthander. “Granted, there’s a lot of so-called pressure, but you just go right at guys. You can throw a lot harder as a reliever.”
“Chance just doesn’t back down. The situation doesn’t bother him,” Workhoven said.
Such nerves were in demand on Thursday.
Mike Bobinski, the first Highlander Dutcher faced, loaded the bases with another single, no outs.
“All we needed was one hit — even a little flare,” said Northwestern coach Kevin Nelligan. “But give Shepaug credit.”
Specifically, give Dutcher credit.
The steely fireplug popped up the next Highlander for one out; struck out the second and watched the third out settle into leftfielder Jack Schneider’s glove, then steamed through the top of Northwestern’s order in the seventh with just one more Highlander hit, by McDonald.
“I can be a lot more relaxed knowing if I get in a jam, I can depend on (Dutcher),” Perachi said.
Thursday, that security counted for sole possession of the Berkshire League lead.