Even for the defending New England Baseball Champions, victories simply do not get better than those of this past weekend. The PA club beat out its league rival BB&N with a final score of 9-2, and then turned around to defeat Phillips Exeter Academy in a double header on Saturday. In the first game, the Andover squad crushed Exeter 13-1, due largely to a no hitter by Tom Kennedy ’03. In the second game, the Blue squeezed by the Big Red in an intense seven inning long battle with Adam Crabtree ’04 firing pitches that ensured the team’s 3-2 victory. The Andover pitchers, Kevin McGravey ’04, Kennedy, and Crabtree, stole the spotlight this weekend, each delivering impressive games. Of all the outings, Kennedy’s was one of the most memorable in recent Andover baseball history. Knowing that he had to get things started on the right foot, Kennedy threw an amazing first game. He struck out a total of ten Exeter batters, and induced seven outs on ground balls to the infield. Exeter’s only run came as a result of two walks early on in the second inning. Of his performance, Kennedy said, “I felt great even just warming up in the bullpen before the game. My first ten pitches in the pen felt so good that I decided to end my warm up early and save some of them for the game. I think that helped me stay confident in my pitches during the game and not get down because I was able to use that confidence to keep the Exeter batters off balance.” Kennedy also noted the importance of having catcher Paul Chiozzi ’03 as his counterpart, saying, “I think Paul and I really knew how to keep them guessing as to what was coming.” As it turns out, Kennedy’s performance was a no-hitter, affectionately called a “no-no” by his teammates. Kennedy reflected, “I was having one of the best games in my career and I really wanted this one, especially against Exeter. Everything just came together.” In the first inning of the second game, the dreaded Exies scored two runs to bring the score to 2-0, in favor of the Big Red. However, Crabtree “hung tough” in the words of Andover’s Coach Andy Cline and managed to allow only one more hit against him and struck out a grand total of thirteen men. In the sixth inning, Crabtree proved that he was, and always will be, the true King of the Hill. With the bases loaded behind him, he coolly struck out the next three batters to retire the side. Commenting on his teammate’s performance, Co-Captain Adjatay Nyadjroh ’03 said, “Adam showed a great deal of heart and showed why he is both the league MVP from last year and one of the best players on our team. I have never seen a high school pitcher battle the way he did – it was simply a beautiful display of pitching.” Of his performance on Saturday, Crabtree said, “I had to do my job and keep the lead down so that we could get right back in the game. I was successful because I was throwing the ball hard and threw all off-speed pitches for strikes, which kept the batters off balance. I still don’t think I’ve had a game where I’m at my best, but I’m getting there. But that’s what’s great about this team. I know that the team will always pull through because there are so many talented guys behind me and that added to the confidence that I really needed on Saturday to mentally get me through that game.” It is exactly that team depth that the Big Blue has been working so hard to develop. Its work has paid off, evidenced by the team’s solid defensive plays this weekend. Consistently strong center fielder Nyadjroh commented on his and shortstop Co-captain Kyle Murphy ’03’s views on the importance of defense saying, “Both Kyle and I take pride in performing defensively because we both know that defense and pitching are what ultimately prevents the other team from scoring and wins ball games.” Murphy also explained, “Baseball is an interesting and intense sport because it’s really the only sport in which the team on defense gets to control what’s happening with the ball for the most part so you have to be sharp out there and have your head up.” Examples of “heads up” defensive plays abounded this weekend. Standing out were plays such as McGravey’s slick catch in the bottom of the fifth inning at BB&N. He tossed the ball to Zak DeOssie ’03 for a quick and easy out. Also in the BB&N game, Nyadjroh made a stellar effort to track down a fly ball hit to center in the bottom of the fourth. Though he was unable to make the catch, his aggressiveness and speed kept the BB&N runner nervously on first base. In the Exeter games, the team stepped up its play, as Kennedy kept the Exeter bats at bay. In the second game, Nick Barber ’03 made a diving catch in the third inning to stop a ball hit by Exeter’s number three hitter. In the fourth inning, Paul Chiozzi ’03, DeOssie, and Crabtree turned in a smart play to get an errant Exeter runner out at first. Also, finishing the game in style, Murphy made a great play on a ground ball up the middle to get the batter out at first. The stamina that the Big Blue’s catcher, Chiozzi, displayed last weekend was phenomenal. With Cory Schneider ’04 nursing a bad ankle, Chiozzi stepped up and caught a total of 19 innings in the span of two days. Not only did Chiozzi turn in a solid performance at the catcher position, he was also strong offensively, contributing three hits in the game against BB&N and two hits against Exeter in the doubleheader. Chiozzi is currently ranked as the second best hitter in the league, with an average of .500 behind Exeter’s Wallace who has an average of .586. The Big Blue also had many impressive offensive plays. One of the most important plays took place during the second game against Exeter. With time running out in the game, Andover went into the sixth inning still dragging by two runs. Inspired by Crabtree’s impressive pitching, the Blue stepped up and it was all over. A rally started when both Murphy and DeOssie got on base with infield singles. Crabtree was up next and slammed a ball to left field that managed to run in Murphy to score PA its first run. Connor Hoesley ’04 took up the bat and made a beautiful sacrificial bunt that actually got him to first base when the Exeter second baseman made an error. Then the hero stepped up to bat – that’s right, Justin Gallagher ’03. He rocked a single through the infielders that sent DeOssie and Crabtree home to bring the score to 3-2. The humble PG said later, “I was just trying to get the ball in play. I hate Exeter and we smoked them, I’m just glad I could make a play when we needed it.” This week the Boys in Blue take on the Cushing Purple Penguins and the Deerfield Big Green on the road. The Deerfield doubleheader is a highly anticipated one, as the last time the Big Blue last clashed with the Big Green for the 2002 New England Championship title.
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