WILLIAMSTOWN - Pittsfield's win over Mount Greylock on Tuesday exposed strengths and weaknesses for both teams heading into the Western Massachusetts tournament.
While the Division I Generals prevailed, the win wasn't easy. The Mounties, who qualified for the Division II tournament the day before, learned again how much miscues in the field and on the bases can cost them.
"We've got to play our best defensive game every time we step on the field," said Greylock coach June Blake. "Eliminate our errors, we've got to be able to do that. We can't give good teams, which we'll face all throughout the tournament, extra outs."
Miscommunication on the infield gave Pittsfield an extra baserunner in the fifth but Greylock pitcher Heather Tomkowicz was able to work her way out of the jam. One inning later, disaster struck when the Generals loaded the bases, eventually scoring all four of their runs.
After a sluggish first few innings, Pittsfield got its emotional spark from pitcher Sarah Rayner, who pumped her team up enthusiastically between innings. That's what coach Greg Marchbanks is looking for from his ace. Rayner already helped the team weather a five-game week earlier this month.
"We keep finding a way," Marchbanks said. "That's what we're doing. [Rayner] keeps us in the game so we can find a way to win."
Marchbanks was speaking during a rain delay from Greylock's cafeteria. A couple hours later, his team followed that script. Rayner said the game wasn't her prettiest but she kept Pittsfield within striking distance.
The Generals found a path to victory with Aoife Nester's triple, a play where Greylock outfielder Miranda Voller said she wasn't positioned correctly.
"Me and Allison [Shand] didn't get back far enough," Voller said. "We didn't respect the batter. But that's pretty much it. We played a solid game. Just that one inning."
If the Mounties want to make a deep playoff run, they need to keep in mind how dangerous a single inning can be.
"These are the kinds of games that are going to prepare us for the tournament," Blake said. "As much as it's incredibly disappointing to lose these games, to be in a game like this and do what we did offensively - obviously we've got to pick it up defensively, not have those miscues - it's going to help us out in the end."