Westport starting pitcher Alec Johnson was not at his best at the onset of his team's contest against Easton senior legion on Monday afternoon.
Once he escaped a first-inning jam however, Johnson settled in and dominated the visitors for the other six innings, cruising to a win in a summer full of solid team performances.
Johnson tossed a complete game and Frank Vartuli went 2-for-4 with a double as Westport continued its turnaround with an 8-3 win over Easton at Staples High. Westport improved its record to 9-8 on the season after going 6-21 a year ago.
For Easton (4-14), Zack Shapiro hit a pair of home runs in the loss.
"(Johnson) had a little trouble in the first inning, our catcher (Matt Beck) bailed him out, and he threw a great game," Westport's first-year manager Jeff Love said. "He kept the pitch count down and did a really nice job for us. He gave up the two home runs, but they were solo home runs because he was doing a good job getting ahead of hitters."
Johnson walked three batters in the top of the first as Easton jumped out to an early 1-0 lead. With two outs and the bases still loaded, Beck fired a low pickoff throw to first base in time to throw out an Easton runner retreating to the bag.
"I needed more time to warm up," Johnson conceded. "I felt like I had a lack of energy in the first inning and I was able to come through in the following innings."
Westport put the game away early with four runs in the bottom of the second, breaking a 1-1 tie. The hosts strung together four hits and capitalized on two Falcons errors to set the tone for the rest of the contest.
"We got guys on base, moved them over, ran the bases well and put pressure on (Easton)," Love said. "When you put pressure on teams you have a chance to win and score a lot of runs."
Vartuli, who doubled in a run during the second inning outburst, hasn't missed many pitches this summer. He is currently batting over .500 with eight home runs as Westport sits in fifth place in Zone 4.
"We just have to keep (Vartuli) going," Love said. "He's been swinging a good stick for us lately and doing a really good job."
Despite serving up the two home runs to Shapiro, Johnson retired 18 of the final 21 batters he faced and was in cruise control. The rising senior is aiming for a spot in the Staples starting rotation once 2014 rolls around.
"I'm always working toward something and doing my best to accomplish that goal," Johnson said.
It's a busy week for Westport, which takes on Wilton on Wednesday and Trumbull on Friday. Westport gets another crack at Greenwich on Saturday after giving the first-place team all it could handle in a 7-6 loss last Friday.
"We have a good ball club, we have almost a full roster," Love said. "Kids are playing for pride and they want to win; we can play with anyone on any given night."
Ryan Lacey is a freelance writer
WESTPORT 8, EASTON 3
EASTON 101 001 0 -- 3 4 4
WESTPORT 142 010 x -- 8 8 0
Batteries: E-- Pat Burns (L); W -- Alec Johnson (W) and Matt Beck.
Doubles: W -- Frank Vartuli, Zack Azadian. Home runs: E -- Zack Shapiro, 2.