Shelton High baseball coach Scott Gura called for an all-star effort from his team, as the Gaels prepared for visiting Guilford High on Monday night and they delivered.
Senior ace Ryan Testani scattered three hits over seven innings and set down six on strikes, as the Gaels piled three runs on the Indians in the first inning en route to a 5-1 win.
Gura was proud of his team’s focus after the victory put Shelton (10-5) on solid footing to make a run at the SCC title.
“Scoring three runs early against a young team in Guilford was very big for us because this is a huge point game for us to make the SCC tournament,” Gura said.
“We are fighting a tiebreaker with them head-to-head. Winning any game with this year’s schedule, when you are only playing teams once, makes it very important to get the victory.”
After the first of five 1-2-3 innings for Testani, Tyler Tice kick-started the Shelton offense with a first-pitch single.
Mike Cowell followed with a with a walk and designated hitter Marcello Ursini pushed Tice home with a smash to right-center that escaped the grasp of a lunging outfielder.
Ed Groth (2-for-3, RBI) started his solid night at the plate with a hard liner to left that brought Cowell home.
Justin Lynch capped off the inning with a sharp grounder to left that plated Ursini for the 3-0 lead.
Testani (4-2) posted his first strikeout in the second inning and again faced just three batters in the inning, thanks to a good read by Tice at shortstop to snag a dying liner in the dirt.
Tice then notched his second single of the evening and cobbled together his second run with a steal at second and advancements to third and home on passed balls to give Shelton a 4-0 lead at the end of the second.
The run also forced a clearly rattled Indians’ starter Luke Nerney from the mound.
Guilford (7-8) finally cracked Testani in the third with a one-out single, but right fielder Pat Murphy quickly erased the small victory with a diving catch on a short bloop that he converted into a double play when the base runner was doubled off first.
That was the first of several sparkling plays for Murphy, who chased down deep fly balls in the fourth and fifth innings to keep the Indians scoreless.
“Pat Murphy has become our best defensive player this year,” Gura said. “He’s been an infielder his whole life. He worked hard in the offseason and made the adjustment to outfield in the preseason for us and he’s done a great job.
“Pat’s a great natural athlete in baseball and basketball and he tracks the ball very well and is confident in his skills out there.”
The Gaels added a score in the fifth inning after Cowell ripped an opposite-field single with two outs.
Ursini worked a five-pitch walk and Testani helped his own cause with a single down the first-base line to score Cowell for a 5-0 lead.
Guilford threatened in the sixth with a leadoff double and another two-bagger that forced in its only run of the evening.
The Indians looked to add more, but Murphy again came up big in the outfield with another diving catch that turned into a double play when Shelton challenged a Guilford base runner’s tag-up at third.
Testani closed out the evening with three straight strikeouts on 11 pitches in the seventh.
“When Ryan can throw first-pitch strikes, he’s pretty dominant,” Gura said. “He throws eighty percent strikes and if he can get ahead of a hitter and get them on his heels a bit, he’s a very effective pitcher.
“He’s an All-State pitcher. He’s pitched very well for us all year and he pitched very well tonight.
“This was a huge win for us and it is good to get to ten wins. Whenever you can have double-digit wins, that is a good season for you, especially after losing so many seniors from last year.”