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Obdurate lumps of dirt-encrusted snow loitered in the shaded section of the VFW parking lot, but no one was thinking about the wicked winter on Sunday, May 3, as the Westford Over 30 Men’s Softball League kicked off the 2015 season under summery blue skies. Colorful uniforms, the ping of the bat, and the constant greetings of old friends reacquainting themselves punctuated the scene and established the mood for the new season. And there was food—so much delicious food! The 2014 champion Nashoba Valley Veterinarian Mustangs prepared and cooked an array of meats and vegetables—some donated by new team sponsor Burtons Grill—that nourished the nearly 400 attendees. That evening, when the easy-ups were eased down and the grills and tables lifted into pickups and packed away, well after the conclusion of four regular-season games, the Mustangs delivered and donated the remaining food to St. Paul’s Soup Kitchen, in Lowell.
Sunday, May 3 (Opening Day)
Burtons Grill 5 – Pro Sports Therapy 4
The team formerly sponsored by Mario’s Restaurant opened the new season with a new sponsor, Burtons Grill, and a walk-off 5-4 win over PST. Burtons combined stellar defense, timely hitting and solid pitching from Jerod Colley to climb out of a 2-run deficit in the bottom of the 7th to post the win. Defensive gems included an over the shoulder catch by Raghu Mantena in right field and a pinpoint relay from outfielder Tim Scott to shortstop Dave Batchelder to catcher John Geary to nip a PST runner at the plate. Geary also delivered a clutch 2-run double in the 7thto score rookie Steven Sawyer with the winning run.
Drew Farms 11 – Gutcheck 9
Drew Farms scattered 18 hits over six innings to fend off Gutcheck, 11-9. Tom Milanese, making his Drews debut, went 3-for-3, as did Scott Cole. Mark McAleese, Todd Shepherd, Blake Buxton, Rob O’Neil and Mark Kost contributed to the win, getting two hits apiece. Jason Goldthwaite, Joe Welch and Pat Pawlak helped the cause with their excellent defense. Gutcheck’s Thanh Nguyen, Matt Sepe and Jim DeMarco all went 3-for-4. Two of Nguyen’s hits were home runs, and Sepe hit the top of the fence twice. Gutcheck was down by two in the seventh with the tying run at the plate when the game ended.
Healy Oil 13 – Floral Arts 12
The Healy Oilers withstood a late-inning surge by Floral Arts to prevail 13-12 in a nail-biter. The Healy offense was buoyed by a series of three-run home runs by shortstop Tony Pantoja, outfielder Brian Egan and newcomer Wayne Meadows, who also impressed with his defense at third. Mike Martin and Tommy Hudson combined on the hill for the win. Floral’s Jeff Moore, Rob Beaudette, and Simon Tripp homered in the loss.
Shortcut Landscaping 5 – Willis Tent 4 In the season opener, both team’s bats started off slow. In the end, the difference-maker came from SCL rookie John Kulesza, whose go-ahead three-run homer ended up the game-winner.
Tuesday, May 5
Nashoba Valley Veterinarian Mustangs 19 – Gutcheck 5
The first week of the season was in doubt when several weeks ago a town official discovered the light pole holding the electrical box, yet another victim of the vicious winter, lay sideways on the grass between the softball and baseball field. But town officials and work crews combined to resolve the problem in time for the first night games last Tuesday, a night that saw the first four Mustang batters go 3-for-3 to start the season, as the defending champs defeated Gutcheck in a 19-5 run-rule win. Paul Selfrige set the tone at lead off with three doubles and three runs scored. Jim Ward added three singles and three runs scored as well. Don Cusano chipped in with a homer and 5 RBI to go along with his three hits. Bill Knute and Paul Liguori (winning pitcher) also contributed three hits in the winning effort. Mark Cusano blasted a home run and had three RBI. Gutcheck’s Gary Lavelle and Rey Vienneau each had two hits, and Jim DeMarco went 3-for-3 three in a loss to the Mustangs. Thanh Nguyen hit a home run in his first at bat, and then was pitched around in his final two plate appearances.
Floral Arts 19 – Pro Sports Therapy 5
The game remained close until the fourth inning, when the seesaw battle ended and Floral Arts scored 15 runs, leading to a run-rule victory that ended in the fifth inning. Many Floral batters tallied multiple hits and runs, but Billy Luppold stole the show with a majestic double to the right field fence. Greg Marchand, Rob Beaudette, and Simon Tripp (2) homered in the game, and Jim Peloquin pitched well for the winners.
Wednesday, May 6
Healy Oil 8 – Gutcheck 6It was a back and forth battle through seven innings. Gutcheck’s Matt Sepe hit a two-run home run and hit the top of the fence on another at bat. Jeff Stabach went 2-for-3, with two doubles, driving in one run and scoring one of his own. Derek McDermott, just off rotator cuff surgery, pitched a gem for Gutcheck. In the top of the 7th, with one on, and two out, Thanh Nguyen hit a two-run homer to break the tie and allow the eventual win.
Nashoba Valley Mustangs 14 – Drew Farms 0
Great Mustang defense and Don Cusano’s stellar pitching helped shutout Drew Farms earning the reigning champs their second consecutive win and first shutout of the new season. Paul Selfrige continued his hot start with two doubles, a home run, three RBI, and three runs scored. Selfrige and Mike Kennedy played great defense at short and third, respectively, helping to snuff out any potential Drew rallies. Kennedy also chipped in with two hits and three RBI. Mustang Bill Knute contributed two hits, a walk and two RBI.
Friday, May 9
Shortcut Landscaping 24 – Burtons 11Burtons fell behind early to a Short Cuts home run barrage, and then woke up with some late offense before going down in a 24-11 defeat. Donny Morash, rookie Patrick Flaherty (2), Chris Clark, Mike Gross hit long-balls for the winners. Jon Russo paced the Burtons bats with a three hit, four RBI night, including his first home run of the young season. Rick Waldron stepped in admirably in his first appearance on the mound, in relief of the injured Burtons starter. Greg Fitzgerald and Tim Scott were active on the bases, scoring five runs and leading a late Burtons rally.
Drew Farm 19 – Healy Oil 18
An excellent played game from both teams resulted in a tight win for Drews. There were 22 hits, including home runs from Todd Shepherd (2), Jason Goldthwaite and Sal Buonacore to support a solid defense for Drews. Tom Menicci supplied four hits, with three each coming from Mark McAleese, Shepherd and Goldthwaite, and two each from Pat Pawlak and Blake Buxton.