NORTH ADAMS -- The Monument Mountain baseball team ran the bases well and got timely hits in its win over Hampshire Regional on Thursday afternoon.
But most of all, the Spartans had Wilson Flower.
Monument’s senior right-hander scattered five hits, struck out eight, walked two and picked off two baserunners to lead the top seed to a 3-1 victory over the No. 4 Red Raiders at Joe Zavattaro Field at the MCLA complex.
The win moves the Spartans to the Western Mass. Division II final against the winner of the Mount Greylock-South Hadley game today at South Hadley. The final is scheduled for Saturday in Westfield at a time yet to be determined.
"Wilson was the key," agreed Monument coach Tom Hankey "Hampshire is a good hitting team and he kept them off balance all day. He struggled a bit in the first four innings, but he was solid down the stretch."
"At the beginning of the game, I wasn’t hitting my spots," said Flower. "My curve wasn’t doing anything, so I went to my fastball a little more."
Hampshire’s Ben Fischer was no slouch, either. The senior also allowed only five hits, but the Spartan hitters made them count.
"That’s a good hitting team," said Hampshire coach Robert Dombkowski of Monument. "Ben’s a gamer. I thought he pitched well. But we couldn’t score enough runs.
Monument got on the board first, when leadoff hitter Bobby Kinne singled, advanced to second and then to third on a pair of infield hits, and scored on Flower’s single up the middle.
Hampshire bounced back in the next inning. Tyler Zdaniewicz blasted a pitch about 410 feet into center field. However, it is 420 feet to the center field fence at Zavattaro Field, so he was held to a triple. But Codie LaPlante singled sharply into right field to tie the game.
The Spartans responded. Jon Obanhein singled and stole second; with one out, Fischer struck out Monument’s Alex Hill, but the Spartans’ No. 9 hitter, T.J. Shumsky, lashed a double to left to score Obanhein.
Monument added an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Shumsky walked. Fischer tried to pick him off, and fired the ball over first baseman Keith Cotnoir’s head. The ample foul territory did the Red Raiders no favors. The ball bounced way down the line, giving Shumsky enough time to reach third. He later scored on a wild pitch.
Hampshire had its chances. The Red Raiders had runners at first and second in the top of the fourth. But an infield out erased lead runner Ed Hagelstein. Flower then struck out the next two batters on a number of blistering fastballs that popped the glove of catcher Nick Greenleaf.
Even more excruciating was a lost chance in the fifth. Nate Ghareeb singled, and John Lachowicz walked to put runners at first and second with no outs. But Flower picked Ghareeb off second with a beautiful move. The next hitter, Nick Bachelder, hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end that threat.
"All year, we’ve taken the extra base in order to put pressure on the defense," said Dombkowski. "That’s what we did today, but to their credit, Monument made the plays."
"We’re excited to be in the final," assessed Flower. "This was a big win for us. This was where we wanted to be."
Hampshire 010 000 0--1 5 2
Monument 110 010 x-- 3 5 3
Wilson Flower and Nick Greenleaf. Ben Fischer and Adam Laroche. W--Flower. L--Fischer. 2B--Monument 1 (T.J. Shumsky). 3B--Hampshire 1 (Tyler Zdaniewicz).