Anthony Chiappone could only watch and cheer last spring as the Brewer High School baseball program captured its first Class B state championship.
But while a torn meniscus suffered while playing pickup basketball sidelined him a year ago, the now-sophomore right-hander showed himself poised to help the 2019 Witches begin to craft their own identity by shutting out five-time defending Class A state champion Bangor 2-0 at Mansfield Stadium on Monday.
“It’s always fun playing these guys, it’s a big rivalry,” Chiappone said of his varsity pitching debut. “I feel like trying to throw the ball across the plate was one of the keys tonight so my teammates could help me out.”
Working in tandem with senior catcher Andrew Kiley, Chiappone had three strikeouts, three walks and a hit batter while scattering three singles during a 104-pitch effort as he outdueled Bangor ace Zac Cowperthwaite.
“He was a great motivator in cheering for our team last year while he was injured, and he came in this year after he hadn’t thrown in a year and a half, and he shut them down,” said Brewer second baseman Trevor Pearson, who scored one run and drove home the second for the 2-0 Witches.
“Often he got the first couple of batters out before their really good hitters came up there and that made it a lot easier.”
Cowperthwaite, who went 8-1 on the mound for Bangor last spring, scattered eight Brewer singles during his own complete-game performance, a 99-pitch effort that included four strikeouts and three walks.
“We’re getting better,” said Bangor coach Dave Morris, whose team fell to 1-2, “Today was a pitching duel, and we just didn’t get that timely hit and they did.”
Pearson, in particular, came up with two big hits as well as anchoring a Brewer defense that committed just one error.
The junior second baseman opened the top of the second with a single up the middle and advanced to second on a single to right by first baseman Zach Steiger — who like Chiappone had sat out last season due to injury.
A walk to Ethan Hayes loaded the bases before Bryant delivered Pearson with the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly to right.
Bangor stranded two runners in both the second and third innings before Brewer added its insurance run in the top of the fifth.
Kiley grounded a leadoff single down the right-field line, stole second and reached third on a 1-4-3 groundout by Chiappone before scoring on Pearson’s two-out single to center.
“I came up with two outs and knew I had to get the run in,” Pearson said. “It’s a big difference between one run and two runs, so I just took the first good fastball I saw up the middle and I’m glad it worked out.”
Cowperthwaite reached base on an outfield error to open the Bangor sixth but was thrown out trying to steal second on a laser-like throw by Kiley to end the threat before it started.
“That was huge,” Brewer coach Dana Corey said.
Third baseman and cleanup hitter Levi Williamson also had two hits for the Witches.
“Going into the season you think you’re going to be a good team, but you’re never really sure until games like these,” Pearson said. “Beating a really good program and really shutting them down — Chiappone pitched a great game — means a lot for the beginning of the season, and hopefully we can take it from here.”