BRISTOL - The Newington baseball team tries its best to live by its own self-imposed rule: Donâ€™t allow the big inning.
For the Indians, a big inning means surrendering at least three runs. So when the team found itself in an early 2-0 hole on Friday at Bristol Eastern, there was no panic on the Newington bench. They had abided by their commandment, and were still in position to pull off the comeback.
â€śOur job was to keep it where it was,â€ť head coach Ben Alaimo said.
The Indians did just that, holding the Lancers scoreless the rest of the way and cruising to a 9-2 victory.
Aside from the two-run first inning by Eastern, the Newington defense was flawless. Dating back to April 12, the Indians have held opponents scoreless in 27 out of 28 innings, as the team continues to excel in two of the most valuable aspects of high school baseball: pitching and defense.
â€śOur defense is a big part of that,â€ť starting pitcher Jack Kelley said after allowing just three hits after the first inning on Friday in a complete game performance. â€śIâ€™ll strike some guys out, but having those guys behind me is great. Compared to last year, our defense has been keeping the errors low and playing our game. â€ś
On Friday the defense kept the error number at zero, while the offense pounced on the Lancersâ€™ mistakes to build a big lead. Eastern committed six errors in the field, including three in one inning, while Alaimoâ€™s group kept up its sound fundamental play en route to a fourth straight win.
The teamâ€™s solid defense has helped the hitters relax in the box, knowing that they donâ€™t have to do too much in order to put the Indians in a position to win. With the way Newington has performed on the mound and in the field, it only takes a few runs to build a suitable lead.
â€śIt helps me a lot,â€ť center fielder Ethan Errera said of his approach at the plate. â€śKnowing we have a solid defense really helps.â€ť
The defense is helped by the knowledge that their teammate on the mound is going to give them their best, most notably Kelley, who has been on the bump for four of the Indiansâ€™ six wins this season.
Kelley was masterful again on Friday, and his ability to consistently force soft contact and limit baserunners has helped his infielders thrive.
â€śAny time Jack Kelley pitches for us, our defense feels comfortable and confident,â€ť Alaimo said. â€śHe throws strikes and doesnâ€™t walk a lot of guys.â€ť
Clearly, the feeling is mutual. Kelley gives the defense his best and receives the same in return. Mixed together, you get a whole bunch of confidence.
â€śKnowing if a ball is hit theyâ€™re going to make the play and I can just run off the field with two outs, thatâ€™s a great feeling,â€ť Kelley said.
Over the past week, Kelley has been able to run off the field after a clean inning an awful lot.
After losing five starters last year, the Indiansâ€™ defense hasnâ€™t missed a beat, and has arguably gotten better as the team looks to improve upon last yearâ€™s trip to the second round of the Class LL state tournament.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org