MONMOUTH — Mt. Abram’s late-game heroics weren’t enough to put a dent in pitcher Cam Armstrong’s armor of self-confidence.
The unflappable Monmouth Academy senior pitcher, along with backup from his defense, staved off the third-seeded Roadrunners’ seventh-inning, allowing the second-seeded Mustangs to escape with a 3-2 victory in a Class C South baseball semifinal on Saturday.
Armstrong pitched all seven innings and was quite stingy on the mound, striking out 14 Mt. Abram batters and allowing only a hit and one walk — both occurring in the top of the seventh.
“I came out and did what I do best for the guys,” Armstrong said. “It was getting tight (in the last inning), but I knew when (assistant coach Steve Palleschi) came out and talked to me, I bared down. I just relaxed. I was having fun and I was throwing strikes again.
“It was a great win for the team. Everybody was hitting good, good base running.”
Monmouth (16-3) next faces fourth-seeded Lisbon (16-2) in the C South final on Tuesday at St. Joseph’s College.
The Mustangs were leading 3-0 Saturday as the Roadrunners struggled to find a way around Armstrong’s pitching going into the top of the seventh.
“Mt. Abram is a good team,” Monmouth coach Eric Palleschi said. “They have been a good team all year. They have got a bunch of seniors. They have been in this spot before.
“We knew it was going to take seven innings. We just had to make sure we stayed focused. The middle of their lineup coming up — third time around — we knew they were going to put the ball in play. I thought Cam did a great job missing the barrel of the bat all day. I thought it was typical Cam. He has thrown well all year long, and today he was just superb.”
Mt. Abram (15-4) found an opening, beginning with shortstop Trevor Phelps reaching on a walk and stealing second base on a passed ball. Hunter Warren followed with a hard-hit RBI double that brought Phelps home, and an error in the outfield allowed Warren to make his way to the plate and deliver the Roadrunners’ second run with only one out.
But Armstrong kept his cool, and he struck the final two batters to seal the Mt. Abram’s fate.
The Mustangs’ offense opened up on the Roadrunners in the third inning with a three-hit attack that brought three runs across the plate.
Third baseman Manny Calder led off with single, moved to third on outfielder Hayden Fletcher’s single and scored on a passed ball. Fletcher eventually moved to third and Sam Calder got on with a walk and stole second base. Fletcher and Calder both came home on first baseman Matt Marquis’ two-run double that gave the Mustangs a 3-0 lead.
“You’ve got to play seven innings,” Mt. Abram coach Jeff Pillsbury said. “We didn’t play seven innings. And you have tip your hat to Armstrong.
“We didn’t hit. That was the story. We didn’t hit, and I’ve got some good hitters. Sometimes, good pitching beats good hitting, and today was one of those days.
“I like to think on most days, we are better than Monmouth, but they were definitely better than us today. I like to tip our hats to them.”
Ben DiBiase pitched for Mt. Abram and struck out five batters.