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Division I baseball tournament: Cioffi stymies Bedford as Pinkerton gains semis

Jun. 2—DERRY — When Pinkerton Academy Michael Cioffi starts fast and commands the strike zone, he's tough to hit. Bedford learned that in the NHIAA Division I quarterfinals on Saturday.

Cioffi tossed a two-hitter in the Astros' 5-0 triumph over Bedford that earned them another trip to the semifinals.

Top-seeded Pinkerton (19-1), which has reached the Division I final each of the past two seasons, will play the Cinderella of the tourney, 13th-seeded Nashua North, in the semifinals on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Holman Stadium in Nashua. The Titans have pulled two straight upsets, the latest a 3-1 win over No. 5 Dover in Saturday's quarterfinals.

"All we tell our pitchers is we want competitive pitches — we want to be around the zone," said Pinkerton coach Steve Campo. "We just want to be competitive and we want to give ourselves a chance and give our fielders an opportunity."

Cioffi gave his fielders the first inning off, sending the Bulldogs down in order via three straight strikeouts. For the game, the lefty posted three 1-2-3 innings and finished with one walk and six strikeouts.

Cioffi said he used his curveball a lot, and his sinker worked well on the outside corners against right-handed batters, keeping the Bulldogs off-balance. Bedford never advanced a runner past second base.

"He was pretty accurate," said Bedford coach Billy Chapman, whose ninth-seeded club finished 13-9, including a 14-5 first-round win over Merrimack. "When you don't walk guys, it really forces the other team to put the ball in play and we started the game off striking out three times in a row."

The Astros rewarded Cioffi's quick first inning by plating three runs in the bottom of the inning.

Brendan Horne scored on a balk and teammate Jackson Marshall then crossed home plate on a passed ball. Leo Boucher capped the Astros' first-inning scoring with a stand-up RBI double to right field that brought home John Hanlon.

Horne left the game due to injury in the second inning.

"The three runs gave me a little cushion just to feel more confident up on the mound," Cioffi said.

The Astros also loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth. Bedford starter Jack Hinton ended the threat by getting Marshall, a Southern New Hampshire University commit, to ground out.

Pinkerton's hitting lull, which Campo said was caused by trying to do too much offensively, ended in the fifth inning. An RBI double from Hunter Brasier with nobody out and a two-out RBI single to left from Elijah Sharp capped Pinkerton's scoring.

Sharp (2-for-3) was the only Astro with multiple hits.

Hinton allowed four earned runs on seven hits, two walks and two hit batters alongside three strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings. Jimmy Gilbert allowed one hit and struck out one in 1 1/3 innings of relief for Bedford.

"Against a good team like that, and the way their kids were throwing, we knew we weren't going to get a lot," Campo said. "We just were hopeful that we got enough and we got fortunate that we did."

ahall@unionleader.com