Pictured: Valley had scored a ton in its previous four games, but Old Saybrook starter Jake Butler held the Warriors to one run over six innings before the Rams won it in the seventh. (Photo by Diane Rothman)

By Danny Atkinson
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

OLD SAYBROOK – While Old Saybrook entered Monday’s Shoreline baseball game against Valley Regional with a 5-0 record, the Rams knew that beating the Warriors would go a long way toward proving they are a force to be reckoned with in the conference.

The Rams responded to the challenge by executing in all phases of the game, resulting in a memorable 2-1 victory that leaves the team undefeated and on top of the Shoreline standings.

Behind an outstanding six-inning performance from winning pitcher Jake Butler, Old Saybrook shut down Valley. Connor Lane got out of a jam in the seventh for the save.

The Rams snapped a 1-1 tie with a run in the bottom of the sixth. Valley starter Colin Carver walked Noah Hester with one out. Hester proceeded to steal both second and third base, and Nick Scalzo drove him in with a ground-ball single.

“We just beat a great team, and I think the players are starting to realize they can battle with anyone,” first-year Old Saybrook coach Ryan Fraser said. “They deserve to be in these spots because of their hard work and passion.”

Old Saybrook’s sixth win exceeded the win total of last year’s squad (5-13). The Rams have now allowed just seven runs on the season. Valley, which entered the game averaging just under 10 runs of offense, fell to 4-1 and behind the Rams in the standings.

Butler was especially outstanding early, mixing his pitches and displaying pinpoint control. He struck out the side in the second and two more batters in the third.

In the fourth, the Warriors finally got to Butler with one out. Carver hit a double and Brayden Sparaco followed with a single up the middle to tie the game at 1. Butler escaped the jam, striking out Lucas Rodgers.

Butler finished his start by retiring six of seven batters. While he didn’t earn the win (that went to Lane), Butler allowed just four hits and one walk in six innings while striking out seven batters, five looking. Buter has allowed just three earned runs in four appearances, three of them starts.

“I was mixing up a lot of pitches and able to keep them off balance,” he said. “Being able to spot pitches early and get ahead in the count really helped my confidence.”

Fraser praised Butler and Lane for stepping up.

“Jake was phenomenal and made some tough pitches. That’s what seniors do,” the coach said. “He’s very reliable and hard-working. Connor came through with some big pitches.”

Butler and Fraser each praised the performance of Old Saybrook’s defense, which has been inconsistent in the earlygoing.

Old Saybrook did not commit an error. The Rams did a quality job of tracking down fly balls and getting outs on hard-hit grounders. Butler singled out a deep fly ball tracked down by right fielder Ed Devaney that likely saved multiple runs. Fraser said that the team has put in extra work on defense and showed a lot of focus.

After a tough start, Carver largely matched Butler pitch for pitch despite suffering a complete-game loss. The junior allowed just three hits and had four strikeouts but walked four and hit a batter. Old Saybrook did not have an extra-base hit.

Old Saybrook scored in the first inning with the help of Carver’s control issues and some luck.

Nick Rothman singled and stole second base and Hester and Lane walked to load ’em up. Scalzo then blooped a fly ball that dropped in left field and was eventually ruled an error. While Rothman scored, Hester and Lane were caught in no-man’s land and thrown out for a double play.

The Rams’ best scoring chance in the next four innings came in the third. Rothman and Hester reached on a hit by pitch and single, but Rothman was thrown out trying to steal third.

After Scalzo’s RBI single gave the Rams a 2-1 lead, Lane entered in the top of the seventh. The sophomore made fans sweat by allowing a leadoff single to Andrew Salbinski, who promptly reached third on two steals, and then walked Mason Erwin with two outs. The fireballer overpowered Rogers and Jack Finnegan on strikeouts and forced Sam Hutchinson to ground out to secure the win.

Warriors coach Brian Drinkard was blunt when asked about the tough loss.

“I don’t think there was anything we could have done differently at the plate,” he said. “I think Carver was very effective. We just need to play our next game and not dwell on the loss. These guys have lost before.”

Carver was 2 for 2 and scored and Sparaco was 2 for 3 with the RBI for Valley.

Old Saybrook will look to stay undefeated against Cromwell (5-2) and East Hampton (2-4) later this week. Valley will travel to play Old Lyme (4-2) on Wednesday and Hale Ray (3-3) on Friday.

Valley Regional….000 100 0–1 5 0
Old Saybrook…….100 001 x–2 4 0

Batteries: VR–Colin Carver and Mason Erwin; OS–Jake Butler, Connor Lane (7) and Lane, Ed Devaney (7). WP: Butler; LP: Carver; S: Lane.

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