Tuesday July 31, 2012

WESTFIELD -- The game -- and season -- was slipping away from Simon Nassif.

The Pittsfield pitcher had taken the mound in the seventh inning of an elimination game in the Babe Ruth 13-year-old New England tournament against Marblehead on Monday with a relatively comfortable three-run lead. Comfort turned to frustration when the deficit was cut to one off a wild pitch and an RBI base hit. With the tying run 90 feet away and the winning run on second, Nassif stared down Marblehead's Thomas Rockett.

"I got nervous in the last inning," Nassif said. "If they got a hit, we probably would've gone into extras again. ... I had to get [Rockett] out."

That's exactly what Nassif did, striking Rockett out looking to end the 7-6 victory, keeping Pittsfield alive for at least one more day at Westfield's Bullens Field. Pittsfield heads east again tonight to face either Manchester, N.H. or Warwick, R.I. in another elimination contest.

"[Nassif] battled himself all day, but he hung in there," said Pittsfield manager Matt Stracuzzi. "He didn't have his best stuff but he gutted it out. That's a big-game pitcher."

Nassif struck out three, all of them looking, in the complete-game victory. He labored at times but had a knack for getting out of trouble. Marblehead, the Eastern Massachusetts state champion, stranded nine runners.


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Marblehead runners reached third in both the fifth and sixth innings, but Nassif didn't allow a run. He got two quick outs in the seventh before hitting a batter and issuing back-to-back walks. Crew Whittier would come home on a wild pitch before Spencer Carr drove in a run with a single to left. That brought up Rockett with runners on second and third. Nassif said he just ignored the baserunners, like he had the previous two innings.

"I tell you, he always comes through when we really need him," Stracuzzi said. "It's been happening since he's been a nine-year-old all-star."

Nassif got plenty of run support to back him up. Marblehead's only lead was 2-1 in the second. Pittsfield responded with four in home half of the inning, including a two-RBI hit from a younger Matt Stracuzzi. Jordan Nassif stretched the lead to four with an RBI single in the third before Marblehead mounted its comeback.

Simon Nassif surrendered two in the fourth before Pittsfield scored perhaps the biggest run of the game in the sixth. Shane McMahon followed up a leadoff double to right field by attempting to steal third. Marblehead catcher Kyle Koopman tried to throw McMahon down, but the ball went into the outfield and McMahon came home easily. At the time it was just an insurance run, but the elder Matt Stracuzzi called it "huge" in hindsight.

"Once I saw it pass my body to the right, I just took off as fast as I could," McMahon said. "Now that I realize that just a little thing like that ... won us the game, a pretty good feeling about how I stole."

It kept Pittsfield's hopes for a New England title alive for another day. That's all the elder Stracuzzi said he could hope for.

"I'm proud that they stuck together after a tough loss [Sunday] night," the manager said. "They could have easily come out and gone through the motions. They didn't."

To reach Christopher James:
cjames@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6252.
On Twitter: @BECJ2K.