Baseball: James Lavallee tosses no-hitter as Smith Vocational blanks Mahar 7-0

Smith Vocational pitcher James Lavallee throws against Sci-Tech last season  at Arcanum Field in Northampton.

Smith Vocational pitcher James Lavallee throws against Sci-Tech last season at Arcanum Field in Northampton. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 04-19-2024 7:57 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Only three batters stood in the way of James Lavallee and a no hitter.

But the Smith Vocational junior southpaw still had work to do, and he had to go through the two, three and four hitters of Mahar’s lineup if he wanted to notch the first no-no of his career.

As he stood tall atop the bump at Arcanum Field, he took a deep breath, and turned his attention to the heart of the Senators order.

Lavallee fired strike after strike, and zipped through Mahar one-by-one with a blistering fastball and knee-buckling curve. He struck out the side in order – his fourth time doing so – to give the Vikings a 7-0 victory over the visiting Senators on Friday afternoon.

The only baserunners the Sens managed came via a first-inning walk and a fifth-inning throwing error, and Lavallee fanned 15 out of the 22 batters he faced.

“It’s a huge confidence booster, because my first game, I didn’t do so great on the mound,” Lavallee said. “Today I came back and fought hard. Everything felt good and was working great. I trusted every pitch and that’s all you can ask for.”

Mahar put several good swings on the ball, either fouling pitches away, putting it in play or coming up empty, but it couldn’t consistently string anything together.

After scoring 10 or more runs in their first two contests, the Senators were truly just overpowered by a dominant lefty.

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“The biggest thing is just being consistent. We lacked that today,” Mahar head coach Dan Guertin said. “We put up double-digit runs in the first two games and then get shut down here today. A lot of it has to do with who’s starting on the mound that day, like we ran into a hot kid like [Lavallee] and it showed. It’s hard to do anything when you’re not even getting to first base besides on that one error.”

The way the first inning went, it looked as if seven innings wasn’t in the cards on Friday.

Smith Voc batted around and erupted for half a dozen runs in the opening frame. Patrick Millin started things off with a single, Jared Baer walked and Tyler Carlson reached safely on a fielder’s choice to load the bases up. Lavallee stepped up and ripped a two-run single to score Millin and Baer to get the scoring started.

Another fielder’s choice saw Kaleb Jorritsma take first, then Zach Bramucci reached on an error that brought Lavallee to the plate. That started a chain of three straight at-bats resulting in an RBI. Joel Charbonneau and Corey Kirkendall each collected RBI singles, and Maggie Lauder – the only female on either team – plated Charbonneau with a ground ball to second.

Each of Smith Voc’s starting nine reached base in the first inning, as the Vikings led 6-0 in a blink.

“That’s the way we’re supposed to be playing,” Smith Voc head coach Luis Bonilla said. “The issue we’re having this year is we get early runs, and then all of a sudden we just slack off and don’t hit again. That’s happened in a couple of our games this year. We’ve gotta fix that.”

That same issue plagued Smith Voc again on Friday. Mahar starting pitcher Matt Vitello settled in after the rocky start. The sophomore surrendered one more run in the second inning on a Bramucci sacrifice fly (which scored Carlson), then buckled down the remainder of his outing.

Vitello – who hasn’t pitched in nearly three weeks due to the postponement of games – responded with three consecutive three-up, three-down innings to end his day on the mound. He finished with two walks and seven hits on six strikeouts in five innings of work. The back-half of Vitello’s start was much to the liking of his head coach.

“It was good to see him settle in,” Guertin said. “You do little bullpen sessions along the way, but three weeks off the mound without facing a game situation – he struggled a bit in that first. After that, he pitched the way he’s capable of pitching. He did a better job of mixing things up and his command was great. You take away that first inning, which you can’t do, but you take it away and it’s a 1-0 game for six innings. It’s nice to see we put things back together.”

Spotting an ace of Lavallee’s caliber seven runs through the first two innings is certainly a recipe worth following. It turned out to be just fine the Vikings’ offense didn’t give him anything else the rest of the way, because he didn’t really need it.

Lavallee punched out 13 of the last 15 opponents in the box.

“That always helps, it was awesome to get that run support,” Lavallee said. “I think we missed a couple opportunities in the middle and late portion of the game to get a few more runs, but we played tight defense. And having 15 strikeouts was nice, too.”

Smith Voc (2-1) hosts Commerce on Monday afternoon at 4 p.m., while Mahar (2-1) hosts Turners Falls on the same day at the same time.