MONTAGUE - With a berth in the Western Mass. Division III baseball championship game on the line, Monument Mountain pitcher James Allentuck wanted the ball in his hand - even after 97 pitches.
"He told me before he went out for the seventh, 'Don't even think about taking me out,' " Monument coach Tom Hankey said Thursday night.
So Hankey stuck with his pitcher, even after a leadoff fielding error put an Athol runner on first and the would-be tying run at the plate. Allentuck responded with consecutive strikeouts - his 11th and 12th of the night - and a flyout to give the No. 1 seed Spartans a 4-2 win at Turners Falls High School.
Monument (17-3) will face No. 6 seed Greenfield (17-6) in Saturday's D-III championship game. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at the University of Massachusetts.
Allentuck threw 107 pitches, registered a dozen Ks and stranded seven Athol runners on base. He got himself out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth and threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the first 12 batters he faced.
He couldn't even remember the last time he pitched, so the 107 pitches didn't seem to have taken their toll on him in the late innings. His velocity was still good, and his accuracy was still there.
"I've been rested for a long time," Allentuck said. "The rest paid off, and I was able to come through.
The Spartans started quickly, scoring twice in the first inning and adding single runs in the third and fifth innings. Dominic DeFelice drove in two of those runs, on an RBI single in the first and an RBI groundout in the third. He was 2 for 3 with a double.
T.J. Shumsky was 2 for 3 at the cleanup spot in the order, with two singles and two RBI - including a run-scoring fielder's choice in the first inning. That scored Trevor McFarland, who had doubled to center field to start the game.
"I was playing for a run early," Hankey said. "James had some good stuff in the bullpen and I know if we could get up early, we'd be in great shape. Trevor started off with the double; he's a solid kid."
The Spartans had other chances to add to the lead, but left seven runners on base. Shumsky singled in Brandon Perry in the fifth for Monument's fourth run, and DeFelice followed with a double. Henri Morrison was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out, but pinch hitter Tyler Sonsini struck out and Athol pitcher Bradley Bousquet induced an inning-ending fielder's choice from Allentuck to end the threat.
Athol could have seized the momentum after Jamie Posk's RBI single in the top of the sixth, followed by No. 9 hitter Shawn Smart reaching base on a fielding error at short to start the top of the seventh. Hankey, however, visited the mound after the error, bringing in the entire infield for a talk.
"I went out to the mound to try and settle everybody down," he said, "and stop their momentum. The [Athol] crowd was going crazy.
"We settled down, James pitched and it worked out for us."
Indeed, with the top of the order up, Allentuck struck out Jerry Parker swinging, got Alex Page looking and got Bousquet to fly out to Morrison in right to seal the victory.
The Spartans will face Greenfield, though, without one of their top players - as they did against Athol. Co-captain and shortstop Bobby Kinne, who was injured in a collision during the Spartans' quarterfinal win over Wahconah, has been ruled out of the final with a concussion. It's the second one he's suffered this school year; Kinne also suffered a concussion in a Jan. 15 basketball game at Mount Anthony.
"He's had a few in his high school career, and there's no game at any level that is that important when it comes to injuries," Hankey said. "It was just an unfortunate thing; he's with us, he's in our prayers, and the kids, deep down, are going to be focused to get it done for him."
Athol 001 001 0 - 2 6 2
Monument 201 010 x - 4 9 3
Bradley Bousquet and Jamie Posk. James Allentuck and T.J. Shumsky. W - Allentuck. L - Bousquet. 2B - Monument 2 (Trevor McFarland, Dominic DeFelice).