The Senators, who were no-hit by St. Joseph's John Amoroso last Saturday, spent four innings on Wednesday trying to figure out Staples left-hander Chris Speer. Just one runner reached base over that time (shortstop Bryan Daniello on a first-inning walk) and the Senators trailed by a run late in a game that was sure to shake up the FCIAC's playoff picture.
"I was annoyed. I'm so sick and tired of us getting no-hit. I didn't think he's that good of a pitcher," Cross said of Speer, who came in with a 4-0 record on the year. "I just told (my team), `If you guys think you're an FCIAC playoff team, you better start hitting like one.' "
And in some ways, that's just what the Senators did.
After Mike Giordano provided a spark offensively in the fifth inning with a game-tying solo home run off Speer, first baseman Joe Cox followed suit in the sixth by blasting a two-run home run off reliever Jimmy Kopack, lifting McMahon to a 3-2 win over the Wreckers.
With the win, McMahon, now 13-6 overall and 12-5 in the conference, all but assured itself of a home game in Monday's FCIAC quarterfinals. Staples, the defending champion lost its fourth straight, ending any hopes of hosting a quarterfinal match up. The Wreckers (13-6, 11-6), could slide as far as sixth when all is said and done.
"All year I've been swinging at first-pitch fastballs and I was just hoping for another one," Cox said. "I just wanted to drive the gap and maybe get Jamie (Restivo) home. But I squared it up pretty good."
Those two long balls were the only hits McMahon's slumping offense produced against Speer (five strikeouts, two walks in 4ï»¿1/3 innings) and Kopack (two strikeouts in 1ï»¿2/3 innings), but for one afternoon they were enough.
"They give away fastballs down the middle and they think they're good enough to get two. Be aggressive early on," Cross said. "In the first inning I thought we swung the bats pretty well ... and then it seemed like we went in a lull for three innings."
Luckily for McMahon, the Wreckers have been mired in a rut of their own offensively, and it continued against McMahon's third starter, Mark Ballard. The Senators' junior right-hander allowed just two hits (four walks, two strikeouts) and left in the seventh with a runner on first and a 3-1 lead.
"I was feeling confident in the beginning. Cross didn't tell me that I was pitching until right before the game, so I didn't really have much time to think of it. I just went out and threw my best game that I could," said Ballard, who improved to 2-1 as a starter.
That outing exceeded Cross' expectations.
"I was just hoping to maybe get two or three innings out of him. Usually in the past that's what he's given us," Cross said.
The Wreckers, who have scored just seven runs during their losing streak, plated a run in the fourth inning on a two-out triple by third baseman Eli Andrew, and another in the seventh on a single by shortstop Sam Ellinwood.
With Ellinwood on first as the tying run in the seventh, McMahon freshman left-hander Paul Salata, in his first varsity appearance, struck out first baseman Michael Terzian to end it and record the save.
"If you told me I was going to come here on an 85-degree day with their No. 3 or 4 pitcher on the mound and we were only going to give up three runs, I would bet my mortgage that we were going to win the game," Staples head coach Jack McFarland said. "We're not swinging the bats."
The Wreckers left eight men on base, including two runners in both the second and third innings.
"We hit the ball in the air nine times today," McFarland said. "You can't do that here. You've got to hit the ball the other way and you've got to hit the ball hard on the ground. That's what we're not doing."
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BRIEN MCMAHON 3, STAPLES 2
STAPLES 000 100 1-- 2 4 0
MCMAHON 000 012 x-- 3 2 2
Records: Staples 13-6, 11-6, McMahon 13-6, 12-5
Batteries: S--Chris Speer (L, 4-1), Jimmy Kopack (5) and James Frusciante. M--Mark Ballard (W, 2-1), Paul Salata (7, S) and Chris Holomakoff.
Doubles: S--Frankie Vartuli. Triples: S--Eli Andrew. Home runs: M--Mike Giordano, Joe Cox.