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February 21. 2013 10:10PM

Kevin Gray's On Baseball: 'Best day' for Connor Lyons


Northeastern University's Connor Lyons, a Bedford resident and Trinity High of Manchester graduate, poses with Red Sox slugger David Ortiz before their teams played an exhibition game Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla. Lyons had a hit in the game, a single off Boston's Daniel Bard. (COURTESY)


Red Sox pitcher Terry Doyle of Salem, N.H., escorts former Boston College teamate Pete Frates to the mound before Thursday's spring training exhibition in Fort Myers, Fla. (RED SOX PHOTO)

Connor Lyons awoke in sunny Fort Myers, Fla., and wrote "Best day of the year" for his Facebook status. And it couldn't have gone much better.

The former Trinity High of Manchester standout was the starting center fielder for Northeastern, which played its annual exhibition game against the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. Lyons posed for a picture with David Ortiz, singled off Daniel Bard, stole second base off Red Sox catcher David Ross and exchanged some trash talk with Dustin Pedroia.

Lyons and his older brother, Sean, both patrolled the outfield during the fifth, sixth and seventh inning of Boston's 3-0 victory.

"Facing professional pitchers is always exciting," Connor Lyons said. "Obviously, Daniel Bard is pretty electric. The ball gets on you pretty quick. I had a decent at-bat and was able to get my (front) foot down and make contact and bloop it up the middle ... Pedroia was busting me out there. He said, 'You got jammed and still got a hit. You're not going to be so lucky next time.' That's about as good as it gets when you're out there playing baseball."

Bard threw a sequence of fastballs against Connor Lyons before working on his slider. It looked good. Bard, coming off a terrible 2012 season in which he was sent to Triple-A, struck out three consecutive Eagles after yielding the hit to Lyons.

"Yeah, I'm satisfied," Bard told reporters after the game. "Not perfect, obviously, but it's a huge step in the right direction. It's always good to get out of the gate with some good results. The focus today was just being in the zone as much as possible. I threw two pitches (fastball, slider) for strikes. Just go from there."

Bard posted a sparkling 1.93 ERA for the Red Sox in 2010. The following year he set a club record by making 25 consecutive scoreless appearances. Last season, Bard began the year as a starter and went 5-6 (6.22 ERA) while unraveling on the mound. Now he's back in the bullpen.

"I think I'm a better pitcher when I'm goal-oriented. At the same time, we don't want to get too wrapped up in results," Bard said at mlb.com. "As a short reliever, sometimes you can throw the ball great and have bad results. I want to focus on the task, the process, but at the same time, my goal is to get outs. That's why I broke out the slider pretty early today. I'm at my best when I'm focused on the competition, I think."

Connor Lyons had one more plate appearance, bouncing into a double play against Alex Wilson. Sean Lyons entered the game in the fifth and flied out against Clayton Mortenson in his only at-bat.

Last year, the Red Sox hammered Northeastern, 25-0, in the first-ever game at JetBlue Park. Thursday's performance left the Huskies feeling like winners.

"Our pitching was great. We held them to five hits and got the ground balls when we needed them," Connor Lyons said. "It was a really impressive performance compared to other years in the past."

In the Thursday's nightcap at JetBlue, Salem High graduate Terry Doyle took the mound for the Red Sox and pitched a perfect sixth inning against Boston College, his alma mater. Before the game, Doyle met with former BC teammate Peter Frates, who is suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease. Doyle wheeled Frates to the mound, where the former BC captain presented the game ball to Red Sox manager John Farrell.

"Pete is one of my best friends from school and spending time with him is a blessing," Doyle said. "The guy has the most positive outlook and is such a powerful influence just by the way he has dealt with this disease. The amount of strength he and his family have displayed is truly inspiring."

Boston beat BC, 11-1.

Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is kgray@unionleader.com.


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