Kaela DeAngelis stepped into the pitching circle in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday afternoon, determined to close out a victory for Chelmsford High.
Fellow senior Meghan Rich had delivered six innings of one-run ball for the Lions, handing DeAngelis a 2-1 lead over visiting Acton-Boxborough.
On a 2-1 count on A-B’s Rachel Lamb, DeAngelis went with her go-to pitch: a change-up that almost appeared as if it was delivered in slow motion. Lamb flailed at the pitch, stumbling out of the batter’s box.
The next pitch was textbook DeAngelis: a fastball high and tight, hovering around 60 miles per hour. Strike three.
Chelmsford pulled out the tight win over a strong A-B club, thanks to 82 pitches from Rich and another 14 from DeAngelis, the pair combining for five strikeouts. In the Lions’ 4-0 start, the duo yielded just four runs.
“You don’t see a lot of teams who have only two go-to pitchers on their teams,’’ said Chelmsford coach Bruce Rich. “They’ve played together for around eight years, and they both had an ERA of roughly 1.00 last season, so they’re definitely rocks for this squad.’’
And for the last four seasons, they have worked in tandem, Rich starting with DeAngelis bringing the heat to close out the game.
Rich has been around the game her entire life, first as a toddler, watching her father coach, then as a young player, learning the game.
“It was a set thing that I’d be playing softball because I had been around it for so long,’’ Rich said. “But I chose pitching because I loved the pressure. There’s no better feeling than realizing what you do will reflect the outcome of the game.’’
In her first four starts, she has struck out 16 while allowing three runs.
“She’s extremely composed,’’ her father said. “She had three no-hitters last year, and the work she’s put in thus far is certainly paying off for her and our team.’’
Rich wants to pitch well and also set up DeAngelis, her teammate the last eight years with the Bay State Bandits, for the save.
“I have complete confidence in what she can do,’’ said Rich, who will play next year at Worcester State University. “I throw the junk, and she’ll come in with the heat. Our styles complement each other.’’
DeAngelis’ noted fastball is the strongest pitch in her arsenal, but she believes her pitch calls are more impressive, especially her change-up.
“I have an awesome change-up; its definitely the pitch that always follows the fastball,’’ said the Smith College recruit. “It’s so effective when you throw gas high and tight, then you have a pitch that’s 20 miles per hour slower.’’
But what makes the duo effective is their different approaches. Rich has five pitches in her repertoire, but she rarely throws one more than twice in a given count. DeAngelis throws three or four fastballs before dropping to her off-speed stuff, never letting batters get settled in.
“The fact that we always pitch in the same game is another huge advantage,’’ DeAngelis said.
“When you have someone who throws four or five junk pitches. then a pitcher who throws gas and junk, there’s no time to figure out what’s going on. And if they can, they’re lucky,’’ Rich added.
The Lions have not had to solely rely on the pitching of their two aces, plating 29 runs in four games.
“Our M.O. is that we have a lot of speed, and a lot of our girls can switch-hit and play small ball too,’’ Bruce Rich said. “Our experience is definitely going to play in our favor this year, because we have 11 seniors, seven of whom started last year.’’
Senior captain Abby Johnson agrees.
“Pitching has been amazing as usual,’’ she said. “But experience is a big thing for us. We all want it and want the chance to prove it.’’
But certainly having two pitchers with ERA’s hovering around 1.00 helps as well.
“We have a lot of people watching this year who know what we’re capable of,’’ Rich said. “But we feed off the pressure, and we really wouldn’t want it any other way.
Lynn English ace has a perfect day
In a 5-0 win over Marblehead April 7, the Lynn English baseball team received a dominant performance from 6-foot-4 junior southpaw Ben Bowden.
Bowden, who won five games as a sophomore, struck out 13 in a perfect game debut.
“His performance was brilliant, amazing really,’’ said Lynn English coach Joe Caponigro.
“Our catcher didn’t have to go to his knees once, and he has incredible composure.’’
Bowden, who went 3-0 as a freshman, displays not only talents on the mound but also in the batter’s box and at first base, Caponigro said.
In Wednesday’s 11-7 loss to Salem, Bowden hit a three-run homer, doubled, and walked twice.
“As a freshman we knew he had Division 1 potential,’’ Caponigro said. “He’s 6-4, 225 pounds. But more importantly, he’s got that fire and the leadership to really push the team to be better.’’
Ryan MacInnis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. edu.