Archbishop Williams taking steps forward

Braintree 05/01/2013: Archbishop Williams baseball coach Pat Clifford warms up his team before the start of the game against Austin Prep. Photo by Debee Tlumacki for the Boston Globe (regional) Reporter: Timothy Healey
Archbishop Williams baseball coach Pat Clifford warms up his team before the start of the game against Austin Prep. (Debee Tlumacki / For the Boston Globe)
The Boston Globe

Archbishop Williams (8-1) has been on a tear all season. The Bishops came into the year hoping to build on last year’s state tournament appearance and coach Pat Clifford has seen progress.

“We’ve got a lot of kids back from last year and only graduated three seniors so we had a young team. We’ve gained experience this year,” said Clifford.

The Bishops have looked like a veteran team, scoring 12 or more runs in four games, all of which were victories. Six batters boast an average of .346 or higher. Brandon Gallahue (.500) and Ryan Earle (.475) own the top two averages.

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“Everybody’s really contributed,’’ said Clifford. “We don’t give away hits too much and a lot of kids pick up the others. If one batter can’t drive in the guy on base, the next guy up will. We had a lot of two-out RBIs earlier this year and captain Jason Pekkinen and Earle have hit lots of extra base hits.”

Earle hasn’t just been contributing with his bat, either. The team-elected sophomore captain has won all five games he’s started on the mound this year. He has struck out 35 batters, pitched three complete games, and one shutout with a season 1.75 ERA. He and senior teammate Scott Anderson have been the Bishops’ go-to hurlers. Anderson owns the team’s other three wins, pitching complete games twice.

“Earle’s a really good pitcher,’’ said Clifford. “He started every third game last year and that experience there helped him take the next step and he needed another step forward. Now he seems comfortable and finds that comfort level quick on the mound. He’s excellent and probably the best hitter on the team too.”

The Bishops, however, did not have their usual success against Catholic Central rival Matignon Friday, falling 8-2.

“Brenden Keenan was pitching for the first time on varsity and that’s only the second time this year we’ve gone to a No. 3 starter,’’ said Clifford. “The [pitcher] on the other team had a little side arm motion. He’s a pretty good pitcher and we haven’t been able to figure out how to hit that herky-jerky motion of his.”

The Warriors’ side-armed hurler, Nick Tortora, held the Bishops six hits. Keenan picked up the loss, pitching four innings, giving up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 earned runs.

“We played pretty sloppy on the defensive side and couldn’t get back in it,’’ said Clifford. “We scored one in the seventh [inning] and had guys on base when the game ended so they fought for it. Going into the next game, I hope it’s a good sign. You can’t win them all, we weren’t going to go undefeated.”

With the season’s first loss behind him, Clifford is feeling good about the rest of the season.

“I’m pretty confident,’’ he said. “We still have four more league games and those are always tough but I’m confident in the kids. As long as they continue to play the defense they do, the bats will keep us in the game and keep us right there. We’re taking it one game at a time, one goal at a time.”

The Bishops can clinch a spot in the tournament with a home win Monday against St. Mary’s.

“It’s a tough game even at home but the kids will respond,’’ Clifford said. “They weren’t too happy with the Matignon performance and will be ready to go so I’m looking forward to that game.”

Games of the Week

St. Mary’s at Archbishop Williams, Monday, 3:30: The Bishops have posted big numbers on the scoreboard this year but not against St. Mary’s. In the first meeting, the Archies eked out a 5-3 victory.

Georgetown at North Reading, Tuesday, 3:45: The Hornets are still undefeated but they’ll have a tough test in Georgetown Tuesday. The Royals are in second place in Division 2 of the Cape Ann league with a 7-4 overall record. North Reading’s undefeated streak is threatened this week.

Peabody at Beverly, Wednesday, 4: A clash of the top teams in the Northeastern Conference. The Panthers are 8-3 and Peabody is undefeated in the conference.