Baseball: Chace Earle shuts down Easthampton in Hopkins Academy’s 13-0 win

Jeff Roberson

By CONNOR PIGNATELLO

Staff Writer

Published: 04-25-2024 7:30 PM

EASTHAMPTON – Hopkins Academy sophomore Chace Earle tossed the longest outing of his career and the Golden Hawks blanked Easthampton 13-0 in a Suburban League West baseball contest on a sunny Thursday afternoon.

Hopkins (3-2) scored eight runs in the fourth inning to stretch its lead over Easthampton (1-5) into a 13-0 advantage. The game ended after five innings due to run rule.

Earle threw five scoreless innings, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out nine. He said he tried to pace himself more than usual and didn’t throw as hard. His 61 pitches blew past his previous career high.

“I actually felt really good,” Earle said. “Usually, after three (innings), my arm is killing. For some reason I just felt really good today.”

Earle joined the Golden Hawks baseball team two seasons ago as an eighth grader and primarily played shortstop. He threw just a single inning. During his freshman campaign last year, his arm never felt like it was in great shape, and he only came in for one-inning relief appearances. In Hopkins Academy’s first four games this year, he also only appeared in one-inning cameos.

“This is the first time I’ve gotten to take the reins off and see what he’s capable of,” Hopkins Academy coach Dan Vreeland said. “His stuff looked electric today.”

Earle tallied two strikeouts in each of the first two innings and consistently got ahead in the count against Eagle hitters. In the third, he loaded the bases with two outs on a pair of infield singles and a walk, but struck out Chris Gallagher to escape the jam. 

After allowing a leadoff single to start the fourth, he blew away the next three batters – all on three pitches – to end the frame. He finished his outing with an eight pitch, 1-2-3 fifth inning.

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“It’s really great to see that he’s able to (throw that many pitches),” Vreeland said. “As only a sophomore, to be able to command a game like that is really awesome.”

Vreeland said that his team is finally starting to “click” after a 13-day layoff where a large number of players traveled to Europe over spring break on a school trip. The Golden Hawks didn’t play from April 9-22, but Thursday was their third game of the week and they play again on Saturday at Agawam. They’ll play four games a week for the final three weeks of the regular season.

At the plate, Earle led the Golden Hawks with three runs scored and also notched two RBIs on a double to deep center field to cap off the eight-run fourth inning. Seniors Beau Elson and Cooper Beckwith also scored twice and James Fitzgibons knocked a two-run double of his own in the third inning.

Easthampton pitcher Topher Reardon started strong, but struggled with command in the fourth inning. He was pulled after 90 pitches and replaced by Jason Sigda. Sigda also had difficulty finding the strike zone and the two combined to walk eight batters in the fourth. Earle’s double was Hopkins Academy’s only hit in the frame.

The Eagles are without a few players who would normally be with the team, which has forced several players to start in unfamiliar positions. They have yet to play a seven-inning game.

Easthampton is going to have to try to get those players to a proficient level faster than usually expected, Eagles coach Ed Zuchowski said. 

“We’re looking forward to the second half of the season,” Zuchowski said. “I told the kids already that that’s where we’re really going to see all the hard work we’ve been putting in and see where things end up.”