WILLIAMSTOWN — Mount Greylock baseball coach Steve Messina said it's a mental hurdle for a team to defeat an opponent for the third time in one season. After defeating Hoosac Valley twice during the regular season, Messina's adage proved correct as the Hurricanes used timely hitting and strong defense to earn a 10-4 win over the Mounties on Thursday in the first round of the Western Massachusetts Division III tournament. The Hurricanes (13-8) advance to face No. 2 seeded Southwick on Monday at 4 p.m. Mount Greylock finishes the year at 10-11.
"They're young kids," Messina said. "We never talked about it and it's not something you want to put in their minds, but the third time around — we only play 20 games. When you see somebody for the third time, that's a big percentage of your games."
Greylock won the previous two match-ups by a combined two runs, but the Mounties' miscues allowed the Hurricanes to take the lead early.
Matt Koperniak led off the game with a single. After moving to second on a ground out and then to third on a passed ball, an error by Greylock shortstop Brodie Altiere allowed Koperniak to score. John Krol followed with an RBI double, putting Hoosac up 2-0. Chris Larabee scored from third on a wild pitch in the second. Keegan McGrath added an RBI double in the third and scored on Larabee's sacrifice fly for what proved to be the winning run.
Koperniak earned the win on the mound, and while he was not dominant, he got outs in key situations. The Mounties scored once in the first inning on Phil Guest's RBI single, but two straight ground outs left two runners on base. The hosts left one runner on in the second after a 6-4-3 double play from Dahndray Sistrunk to Noah Matrigali to Larabee got the 'Canes out a jam in the third. Cal Messina plated two with a two-out single up the middle in the fourth, but Koperniak got the next batter to pop out, ending the threat. The Mounties left eight runners on base for the game.
Hoosac's Jake Swistak threw out Guest trying to steal in the fifth, ending the inning. In the seventh, an error in right field allowed Messina to score from third. After walking Guest, Koperniak retired the next two batter to clinch the win.
Hoosac's senior ace finished with four strikeouts, walking seven, allowing five hits and hitting one batter. The high walk total made it imperative that his team play strong defense behind him.
"Those guys work hard and they take a lot of ground balls," Koperniak said. "It helps a lot to get some chances at double plays and it helps your pitching on the mound. You can try to pound strikes and try to get guys in the field."
Hoosac's biggest inning came in the sixth. After Greylock intentionally walked Koperniak to load the bases, Sistrunk hit a two-run double into left field. Matrigali plated Koperniak with a ground out, as well. J.P. Levesque drove in the final run of the game with a RBI double in the seventh.
Koperniak went 2 for 4 with two runs scored. Krol had two hits and a run scored. Keegan McGrath had two hits, a RBI and a stolen base. Larabee and Levesque each had two hits and a RBI. Cal Messina led the Mounties, going 2 for 2 with two RBI and a run scored.
"We got some big hits tonight," Hoosac coach Mike Larabee said. "[Sistrunk] had a big game. Larabee had a monster game. The No. 7 hitter had a couple big hits for us. He played well."
Matt Koperniak and Jake Swistak. Brandon Condon (5), Josh Jezouit (2) and Hunter Abriel. W — Koperniak. L — Condon. 2B — HV 6 (John Krol, Keegan McGrath, Dahndray Sistrunk, Chris Larabee, J.P. Levesque). 3B — MG 1 (Cal Messina).
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252