Wednesday August 8, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- It has been a long journey for the Pittsfield Babe Ruth 15-year old All-Stars. It took a long run by center fielder Chad Shade to keep the journey going.

Shade's diving grab of Isaiah Singer's sinking fly ball with the winning run on second base in the bottom of the seventh inning provided the exclamation point as Pittsfield advanced into the New England championship final. The 5-4 win over Keene (N.H.) eliminated the New Hampshire champion and puts Pittsfield two wins from a trip to Arkansas for the World Series. The win also erased a 4-3 loss to Keene on Saturday from Pittsfield's collective memory.

"We got redemption on them, and we're going to have to beat Connecticut twice," winning pitcher Bobby New said. "We can definitely do it."

Waiting for Tuesday's winner is Waterford, Conn. The championship game is today at 4:30, and the "if" game follows 30 minutes after the completion of the opener.

Weathering a three-run comeback by Keene (N.H.) in the bottom of the fifth inning, Pittsfield scored single runs in the sixth and seventh. The New Hampshire champions didn't go quietly, scoring a run on three hits in the bottom of the seventh before Shade's catch sent the Pittsfield players and coaches back to their hotel for one more night.

"It's like I tell the kids. You have to put them away. If you keep them in the game, crazy things happen," Pittsfield manager Bob Shade said. "They have the three-run inning and tie it. We're fortunate, because that's a good ball team over there."

Steve Witkowski relieved New to open the seventh and was after his second save in as many days. Mason Blanchard opened the seventh with a single but Witkowski came back to strike out pinch-hitter J.P. Crisman and John Link. Steve Bianco kept the inning alive with a single and Ben Mallet's opposite-field double toward the right field line plated Blanchard. Mallet ended up on second, and a single by Singer would have ended Pittsfield's run.

Witkowski worked the count to 1-2 when Singer hit one off his shoetops toward center. Shade made the long run and, as Andrew Winston did in right field to help preserve a win on Monday, dove and came up with the ball to end the game.

"It was hit low. I was coming in as fast as I can, just trying to catch the ball," Shade said, "and making sure it wouldn't go off my glove."

Shade had kind of a tough night in center. His error in the fifth inning, when a fly off the bat of Blanchard popped out of his glove, opened the door for the three runs that tied the game. He also juggled a Singer fly ball in the sixth, finally making the catch as his teammates, coaches and Pittsfield fans held their breath.

"It was [tough seeing]," he said. "It's a little different playing at night. You pick up the ball a little differently. You think you've got to be somewhere, but you have to take a step back."

Pittsfield started Tuesday as it did Monday, putting a crooked number on the scoreboard. Pittsfield scored three runs on four hits and two Keene errors.

It all started when Shade hit a fly ball to center. Dallas Landry misplayed the ball into a two-base error. Mitch Clary crushed the first pitch he saw from Spencer Heise to straightaway center. Shade scored with ease on the triple, and Clary came home on a bad relay throw by Keene shortstop Blanchard to make it 2-0.

Pittsfield wasn't done as Anthony Jones reached on an infield hit. Third baseman Mallet waited too long to make the throw, and the Pittsfield clean-up hitter was safe by a step. Jones went to second on a single by Alex Carusotto. Dom Traversa flied to left and the next batter, Josh Berthiaume, made it 3-0 when his opposite-field single to left plated Jones easily.

That looked as if it would be enough for New. The Pittsfield left-hander, who closed out his team's 15-8 win over Coventry (R.I.) on Monday with 22 3 innings of relief, took a shutout into the sixth inning.

"We didn't know who it was going to be until we got here," said New, who admitted he really wanted the ball on Tuesday. "He gave me the call, and I was ready.

"I felt good. I loved going out there with runs on the board. That's why I like being [the visiting team]. We can get up on them early."

New gave up three unearned runs on three hits and two errors in the sixth. Otherwise, he gave up one hit in the other five innings he pitched. The lefty did not walk a batter and struck out two.

Spencer Heise took the loss for Keene. He gave up five runs, four earned, on 10 hits. He went the distance and also didn't walk anyone.

Offensively, Mitch Clary went 3 for 3 for Pittsfield. He drove in a run.

"It's been a ride" to get to the finals, Pittsfield catcher Dom Traversa said. "It means a lot. We all want it so bad. It's the regional tournament. It's a once in a lifetime thing."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.