Lorusso leads Masuk baseball team past Bunnell

The Masuk High baseball team stands to encounter some tough pitching in the upcoming postseason. But the Panthers also have some standout pitchers of their own, and that component was on display in a home game against Bunnell on Monday.

Starter Nick Lorusso allowed just one hit and struck out eight batters over six and two-thirds innings, and Josh Wittenberger came on in the top of the seventh to get the final out and pick up the save in Masuk’s 3-0 victory.

“Nick had command of three pitches today,” said Masuk head coach Ralph Franco, whose team is now 8-8 overall and 5-4 in the South-West Conference. “He lost his no-hitter in the fifth, but continued to pitch flawlessly the rest the game. He gave us the opportunity to win today from the very first pitch. He’s starting to put everything together for our post-season run.”

Masuk managed just five hits against Bunnell pitchers Tyler Vancho and Jack Barnhart-Sullivan but was able to score single runs in the second, third and fourth innings.

Brett Cahill and Vin Sampieri each knocked in a run for the Panthers, who got hits from Chris Nicolia, Gianno Merlonghi, Mike Marella, Riley McGuire, and Cahill.

The win was a reversal of Masuk’s previous game: A 3-0 loss to Bethel last Friday.

Bethel pitcher Tyler Davis racked up 11 strikeouts in the complete-game effort.

“I told the guys ‘a game like this, that’s what you expect, with five games left to get ready for the postseason,’ ” Franco said. “He (Davis) threw his ‘A’ game and we weren’t on our ‘A’ game at the plate.”

Masuk had four hits, all singles, but two of its runners were erased on pickoffs, one each in the third and fourth innings.

“The whole game can be turned around right there if we don’t get picked off and get a hit. But that’s the game of baseball,” said Franco.

Wittenberger, Gianno Merlonghi, Sampieri, and Nicolia had the Masuk hits. Lorusso walked and stole a base.

Masuk starter Matt McGovern was also strong, allowing two earned runs on four hits over five innings. Reliever Anthony Conte tossed a scoreless inning and erased a hit by inducing a double-play grounder.

Having already clinched a berth in the state tournament, the Panthers are now vying for a spot in the South-West Conference playoffs.

“We’re right there. We’re battling and we’re looking to be one of the top eight,” said Franco. “I think it’s going to happen.”

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