By Hector Longo
---- — NORTH READING — Two other reporters had left, and North Reading coach Frank Carey had gone deep into the postgame conversation. Deep as in bringing up 1970s era Hornet Marco Vitozzi and his amazing work at the youth levels in town.
“You know, I think we clinched the league today,” Carey said, out of the proverbial left field after yesterday’s 5-2 victory over defending Division 4 EMass. champ Georgetown.
For some baseball programs, league championships are the promised land. In North Reading, they remain afterthoughts, preliminaries to the main event in June.
But Carey’s indifference about the Cape Ann League Large title illustrates where his program resides.
Unbeaten (12-0) and hardly tested, North Reading has trailed in 1 of 87 innings this season. And in that one, the Hornets rallied to beat Masconomet Regional in the 10th.
The heart of this team is the durable and efficient 1-2 pitching punch of URI-bound Ryley “R.J.” Warnock and 6-foot-4 flamethrower Ryan McAuliffe.
The latter climbed the mound at Carey Field and shut down one of the power lineups in the CAL in an eight-hit, 5-2, complete-game.
McAuliffe pounded the zone with 62 strikes and only 16 balls, six of those wild ones in the seventh inning when adrenaline may have taken over.
For Coach Carey, another expectation was met.
“We’ve grown used to it, with Ryley and Ryan,” said Carey. “You saw Georgetown. That’s a pretty darn good team that tried to get on him early.”
But McAuliffe just kept pouring strikes and outs.
He moved to 5-0, striking out four (now 60 on season) and walking none (he has 7 on the year). Warnock, who will take his regular turn Thursday against Lynnfield, has similar numbers at 6-0 with 34 strikeouts and five walks.
Together, they’ve worked 71.2 of the 87 innings this year. And this is what opponents are going to see the rest of the way.
“I’ve never had a kid miss a start,” said Carey, who will mix in No. 3 man Scott Allan (15.1 innings) occasionally. “I’ve said it before. These kids are prepared well for the long haul. As long as they do the right things, and care for their arms, they are fine.”
The Hornets, who closed with an 8-0 march to the Division 3 state title last spring, have few potential bumps in the road.
Certainly, Masconomet will run a tough one at them in Speros Varinos. And if the Hornets see Lynn English’s Ben Bowden in the Clancy Tournament over Memorial Day weekend, it’s sure to be a tussle.
But the possibility of a 20-0 regular season looms.
“I’ve told the kids that I’ve never had an undefeated season, and I really don’t want one because of the pressure,” admitted Carey.
Would the coach ever “tank” one to take the edge off?
“I’d definitely think about it, really,” he said. “But didn’t that get Pete Rose in trouble once?”
Seriously, if there’s a group that might be able to handle, “the perfect season,” it is these Hornets.
They’ve lived on the edge already, fighting the odds and some much more heralded folks on the way to last year’s title.
There is no more sage, polished performer under pressure than Warnock, who was 4-0 with a save and a 0.79 in the 2012 postseason.
He was an assassin in the hill when it mattered. Tough to figure the righty or anyone of the seven other returning starters from that team will buckle under pressure.
Like every other baseball coach in New England, Carey has his lacrosses to bear.
In fact, the Hornets currently stand as a small school lax powerhouse, having reached the Division 3 EMass finals last spring.
That hasn’t slowed North Reading baseball a bit.
“You know, it’s just a different type of kid,” said Carey. “I’ve said it before. In all my years, I’ve never once cut a kid from this program. You have to be able to put up with what we put the players through, but it’s not easy. Somehow, over all these years, the real character kids find me.”
This spring, Carey’s 46th in the North Reading dugout, it’s not just the character guys who found the North Reading hitting dungeon back in March. These guys bring the heavy lumber, too.
In an era when coaches whine about power outages due to the new, deader BBCOR bats, the Hornets put up runs at a monster pace.
Going into the game yesterday, they were hitting a slo-pitch softballesque .380 as a team.
Centerfielder Colby Maiola, who ran down six fly balls in swirling winds yesterday, leads the hit parade with a .500 average and 15 RBIs.
Warnock (.452), Thomas Day (.343), Keith Linnane (.390), McAuliffe (.469), Ryan Sanborn (.371) and the rest all mean business this spring.
Even Carey has taken a step back.
“You know, I tell these guys to look around. They play in front of good crowds,” he said. “Every game day, there’s an excitement about them in school. You go around town, and all people want to talk about is North Reading High baseball. This is fun. I hope they enjoy it.”
Carey sounds like a kid again. And baseball is back in North Reading where it had been for 46 years.
It is king.
agateHed:North Reading 5, Georgetown 2
agateText:Georgetown (2): Pat Slack cf/p 4-0-0, C.J. Ingraham 2b 4-0-1, Colby Ingraham ss 4-1-3, Tom Pingree 3b 3-0-0, Johnny Orlando dh 3-0-0, Kevin Terban 1b 3-0-1, Dan Manning c 3-0-1, David Ingraham p/lf 3-1-2, Ben Noelk lf/cf 2-0-0, Kyle Nelson ph 1-0-0, Alan Navarro rf 0-0-0, Angel Sanquintin p 0-0-0, Totals 30-2-8
agateText:North Reading (5): R.J. Warnock ss 4-1-2, Thomas Day 3b 3-1-1, Keith Linnane c 3-0-0, Colby Maiola cf 3-2-2, Ryan McAuliffe p 3-2-2, Ryan Sanborn rf 3-0-1, Mike Moscaritolo rf 0-0-0, Shane Driscoll 2b 2-0-0, Alec Schaefer dh 3-0-0, Dennis Rollfs lf 3-1-1, Blake Tamlyn-Hayden lf 0-0-0, Mike Brandano 1b 0-0-0, Totals 28-5-9
agateText:RBI: G — Colby Ingraham, C.J. Ingraham; NR — Maiola 3, McAuliffe 2
agateText:WP: McAuliffe; LP: D. Ingraham
agate_MLB_linescore9:Georgetown (7-5): 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 — 2
agate_MLB_linescore9:North Reading (12-0): 2 3 0 0 0 0 0 — 5
North Reading 5, Georgetown 2 Pouncing on the opposition: North Reading struck for 2 in the first and 3 in the second, staking Ryan McAuliffe to a 5-0 lead. The righty helped himself with an RBI double in the first and an RBI single in the second. Colby Maiola drove three with a single and a double. Absolute efficiency: McAuliffe used only 78 pitches, 62 for strikes, in the complete-game 8-hitter. Covering some turf: Maiola was everywhere in center. He finished with six putouts. Flashing leather: You may have found better shortstop play yesterday in the Bay State, but you might have had to go to Fenway. Both North Reading's R.J. Warnock and Georgetown's Colby Ingraham dazzled in the hole and up the middle. Coffin corner clout: The speedy Ingraham found a way to break through the stiff wind by slicing a liner to the deepest part of the park in right. He raced around the bases for an inside-the-park homer, crossing the plate with a head-first dive. The final verdict: North Reading is 12-0 and clinched the Cape Ann Large title. Georgetown suffered its fifth straight loss after opening at 7-0. The Royals (6-5 in league) are in a dogfight in the CAL small with Lynnfield (6-4) and Amesbury (6-4).