PITTSFIELD — The Taconic baseball team showed poise under pressure Monday, rallying to force extra innings before using aggressive baserunning to plate the winning run, earning a 7-6 win over East Longmeadow in the quarterfinals of the Western Massachusetts Division I tournament. The win sets up a semifinal match-up against No. 3 Westfield at Wahconah Park on Wednesday at 4 p.
The Braves trailed 6-5 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Ryan Abel stepped to the plate with Jake McNeice at second after Brett Murphy's sacrifice bunt advanced him to there. With two strikes, Abel lined the pitch past a diving center fielder, allowing McNeice to tie the game.
"I was looking fastball and I was trying to adjust to the curveball," Abel said of the tying hit. "I was just trying to do my job, help my team and do it for the seniors."
Izaiya Mestre struck out the lone batter he faced in the eighth before giving way to Jake Flynn. Flynn stranded a runner on base, setting up the Braves' winning play. Abdiel Cotto-Hernandez led off the bottom of inning with a single and stole second base. Drew DeMartino followed, dropping down a bunt along the third base side. The Spartans' third baseman fielded the ball, but the throw was errant, allowing Cotto-Hernandez to score from third. Cotto-Hernandez had three hits and scored two runs.
"All I was thinking is, I'm a senior, I have to do my job," he said. "It's my duty to get the 'W.' That's what was on my mind. I have to get the run — I have to score."
Flynn is credited with the win, pitching two-thirds of an inning. Mestre labored through seven and one-third innings, throwing 116 pitches. East Longmeadow got to Mestre early, as Ryan Lavelle scored on Jared Mack's RBI single in the top of the first. The Spartans added three more in the second as Christian Candelario-Romero hit a bases-clearing triple. Mack added a two-RBI single in the sixth for the visitors' final runs. Candelario-Romero led the Spartans with four hits, two steals and three RBI. Mack had two hits and two RBI.
East Longmeadow coach Craig DiFranco said he liked how his team responded after the Braves forced extra innings, but Taconic had just enough to pull out the win.
"It was a very good game. It was back-and-forth the whole game," DiFranco said. "It's tough, but that's what we train all year for, for any situation like that. We were ready for it. We came back out and we didn't execute quite as well as we should have."
Cedric Rose started Taconic's scoring with a fly ball over Collin Piemonte's head in right field, plating Jack Cooney. Cooney scored again on a ground out from McNeice in the second. Matt Stracuzzi had an RBI ground out in the sixth, setting up Abel's clutch hit in the seventh.
Despite losing only two games during the regular season, Taconic coach Kevin Stannard said the experience in those one-run games helped his team pull out the win against the Spartans. He added that his players didn't execute well at times, but the win shows the never-say-die attitude of his team.
"We've been behind a couple times and this team has always showed the character to comeback," he said. "There's something about this team — something special. They don't quit. They believe in each other and that's what makes us 19-2 now."
Christian Candelario-Romero (6), Andrew Smith (2) and John Carly. Izaiya Mestre (7 1/3), Jake Flynn (2/3) and Brett Murphy. W — Flynn. L — Smith. 2B — EL 1 (Justin Garcia) T 1 (Ryan Abel). 3B — EL 1 (Candelario-Romero).
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252.