At the University of Connecticut this past spring, right-hander Tim Norton had a decent, but unspectacular season for the Huskies. So far this summer for the Falmouth Commodores, Norton has looked to be an ace.
Norton had his good stuff yet again last night for the Commodores as they traveled over the bridge to Wareham to take on the Canalmen. The six-foot, five inch righty improved to 2-0 on the season as he took a perfect game into the fifth and got a little help from the bullpen later in the game as Falmouth prevailed 5-3 over the Gatemen.
Falmouth is now 5-7-1 overall and has 11 points in the western division standings. The team still trails Wareham, Cotuit and Bourne, although the Commodores have rebounded nicely after a 1-5-1 start to get back into the race. "Itís still early, and weíre going to win our share of ballgames," Manager Jeff Trundy said. "Weíre starting to get a better idea of what our team is going to look like and things are coming around."
Norton, the hurler with the best record on the staff thus far, went six and two-third innings in the win last night, allowing three earned runs with 11 strikeouts and just one walk. For the season, through 22.1 innings, Norton has now struck out 33 and walked just three. Chris Krawczyk (Southwest Missouri State) came on to relieve Norton in the seventh and recorded the final seven outs to earn his, and the Commodores, first save of the young season.
Norton said he never really gave any thought to the idea of throwing a no-hitter, less a perfect game. "It was only the fifth inning, Iím just out there trying to get outs," he said. "(Iím pitching with) confidence, not trying to be too cute with my pitches. I owe a lot to my catchers Ė theyíre the ones throwing down the right fingers."
Falmouth staked itself to an early lead as they put up a two spot in the first inning against Wareham right-hander Wade LeBlanc (Alabama). Bases on balls stung the Gatemenís starter as he one-out passes to Matt Antonelli (Wake Forest) and Chad Huffman (Texas Christian). That set the table for cleanup man Mark Hamilton (Tulane), who continued his hot streak to the start of his season. Hamilton drilled a two-run double to right field to plate both Antonelli and Huffman and give Falmouth the quick 2-0 edge. In three games thus far, Hamilton has now driven in seven runs to move into third on the team list.
Falmouth got another run in the second to go up three. Aaron Garza (Vanderbilt) led off with an infield single, went to second on a sac bunt by Warren McFadden (Tulane) and scored when a fly by Brian Friday (Rice) was dropped in right field.
While the Commodores put Norton ahead, the right-hander was in a rocking chair early on. He retired the first 14 men in a row, including striking out the side in the first inning. After getting a fly ball to start the fifth and then another K, he was touched up for Warehamís first hit and run of the ballgame with one swing of the bat by Whit Robbins (Georgia Tech), who got all of a waist-high fastball and jacked it deep into the humid night sky to make it 3-1.
The Commodores would plate a cheap run in the fourth, thanks to yet another Wareham miscue. With Shelby Ford (Texas Christian) on third, and Garza dancing off first, Garza was picked off by the Gatemen. However, the Falmouth outfielder danced between bases long enough to allow Ford to scamper in from third with the fourth run of the night. Falmouth would nearly get another gift run in the next frame, but a throw to third that got by the third baseman hit the umpire behind the play. That allowed Wareham to gun down Friday at the plate, who thought he had a clear path and had a large look of surprise on his face when the catcher was waiting for him at home plate with the baseball.
Norton continued to be on cruise control through six, but ran into a jam in the seventh. The leadoff man, Jordan Dodson (Rice) singled to right to start the frame. Then, after a strikeout, Robbins walked to put men on first and second. Norton would strike out the next man, but then up came Mike McCallister (Alabama), who had the at-bat of the night against the hard-throwing righy. McCallister fouled off several tough 3-2 pitches before finally getting behind one and drilling it to the wall in left-center, scoring two for Wareham. That signaled the end of the night for Norton. "I threw him and inside fastball that was up a bit, in his wheelhouse, and he got it. Thatís what good hitters do when you make mistakes," Norton said.
Krawczyk entered the game to put out the fire for Falmouth as he got a groundout to end the threat. Falmouth pumped up another run in the ninth, again with some shifty running and poor defense by Wareham combining to account for the final score.
The Commodores are back in action at home tonight, at 7 PM, against Brewster and host Chatham on Saturday at 5:30 PM. The team is back at Wareham on Sunday but returns home to host Cotuit on July 4 at 5:30.
By Darin J. Weeks