Jun. 24—MARBLEHEAD — Some hurlers have a favorite ‘out pitch’, something they love to use to finish off a batter once they get two strikes.
Sophomore lefty Joe Zamejtis of Danvers does not, which makes him challenging to read and almost impossible to hit.
Mixing a hard fastball, biting curve and string-pulling change, Zamejtis struck out 15 in a masterful 3-1 victory over Marblehead in the Division 2 North quarterfinals Wednesday afternoon at Seaside Park. Zamejtis scattered four hits and struck out the side in four of the seven innings.
Now at 84 strikeouts for the season, Zamejtis missed a lot of bats with seven swinging K’s and froze a lot of hitters with eight whiffs looking. He worked effectively on both sides of the plate to hold off Northeastern Conference South champion Marblehead, which ends its season at 14-5.
“That’s Joe. He has an ability to get guys out in so many different ways. He can elevate. He can work in and out and he can drop in the deuce,” said Danvers head coach Shawn Secondini, whose 12-8 Falcons advance to Friday’s North semis at league rival Masconomet (an 8-0 winner over top seed Shawsheen Wednesday).
It was actually an imperfect start for Zamejtis, beaning the leadoff hitter and drawing some good-natured ribs from the sizeable student section sitting in the Roundy grandstand. He went on to strike out the side, though, and didn’t blink much the rest of the way against a Marblehead team he’d beaten 1-0 with 17 strikeouts earlier this spring.
“That game was so early in the season, their bats weren’t 100 percent warmed up. I knew it was going to be harder today and I’d have to be better,” Zamejtis said. “After I hit the leadoff batter with it, my curveball settled in for me. I was able to ignore those guys trying to heckle me and get the dub.”
Marblehead took a 1-0 lead in the third when Liam McIlroy, who had two of his team’s four hits, singled home Andy Titus (walk, advanced to scoring position on an error). It was short lived, though, with Danvers scoring all three of its runs in the next half-inning.
A one-out error and back-to-back walks led to Caleb White’s game-tying RBI single for the Falcons. Magicians’ center fielder Godot Gaskins threw home to get the would-be go ahead run out, but Zamejtis (hitting in the No. 9 spot) came up with an RBI single to give himself the lead for good.
“I’ve been stepping in a little more, keeping my head down and driving the ball,” said Zamejtis, who also drove in the go-ahead run in his first round playoff win over Billerica.
Danvers added an insurance run on a wile pitch later in the inning.
Marblehead pitchers Ben Weed, Bjorn Pluss and James Doody kept the Falcons from padding the lead, stranding nine runners and getting a run-saving diving catch from Andy Titus in left.
“Ben was right around the zone, just missing on a few spots. He pitched well enough to win … just not against Zamejtis,” said Marblehead head coach Mike Giardi.
Zamejtis didn’t allow a hit for eight batters after McIlroy’s RBI single until McIlroy came up again with a deep double. He was stranded on second, and Marblehead didn’t get another baserunner until Matt Titus (2-for-3) beat out an infield single in the seventh.
With the tying run at bat, Zamejtis simply relaxed and struck out the side.
“It was an intense game and Joe elevated his game,” said Giardi. “He struck out the 15, but the bigger thing was he only walked one. You don’t often see 3-4 hits in a row in high school, so it’s those extra baserunners that make the difference.”
White had two hits for Danvers; Zack Hamel and Brendan Trohon (double) had the others. Nolan Hills and Steve Reardon also reached, and Marblehead catcher Charlie Titus threw out the only runner to attempt a steal on the day.
“All year we saw potential in this team,” said Secondini, looking to lead Danvers to the North final for the first time as head coach. “We played so many close games and felt the best kind of experience is experience. Now, in these close playoff games, we’re feel like we’ve been here before.”