PITTSFIELD — The Taconic baseball team had dropped two one-run games all season. Wednesday, in the worst possible moment, the Braves made it three.
Third-seeded Westfield scored two runs, one earned, in the top of the fifth inning as the Bombers came back to knock off the second-seeded Braves 3-2 in a Western Massachusetts Division I semifinal game at Wahconah Park.
In a game of missed opportunities — the two teams combined to strand 16 runners — Westfield made the most of that sixth-inning opportunity. Taconic, meanwhile, had a chance to tie the game or take the lead in the home sixth when the Braves got the first two hitters on base. Westfield starter Ryan Towle retired the side in order.
"It was definitely frustrating," said Taconic third baseman Ryan Abel. "We didn't execute when we had our chances. We got out of a couple of jams, but we had our chances."
The Braves, who were seeking to return to the Division I final for the first time since 2014, managed only five hits off of Towle. When these teams played in April, Towle gave up seven runs on eight hits, and did not get out of the fourth inning.
On Wednesday, the right-hander wasn't outstanding. But he pitched out of three jams and retired six of the last seven Taconic hitters he faced. Towle struck out three and walked six.
"They were hitting [the ball]. I didn't get too many strikeouts, but they were hitting the ball and my teammates were making the plays," said Towle. "We got it done."
Taconic might have gotten here a year early, as among the starters, only Abdiel Cotto-Hernandez graduates, along with teammate Drew Wojtkowski. After meeting with his players, Taconic coach Kevin Stannard said he was proud of their accomplishments.
"I know it hurts right now because they lost," said the Taconic coach. "I think when they have some time to reflect, they'll realize what a good season they had.
"Their goals are just as high as ours, and their expectations are similar, which they should be, and it's always to win a Western Mass. championship."
Westfield had tied the game on Sean Moorhouse's second-inning home run that cleared the fence by the right-field foul pole.
Taconic bounced back three innings later, taking a 2-1, fourth-inning lead when Drew DeMartino led off with a single and eventually scored on Jack Cooney's base hit. Taconic managed only one more hit.
The Bombers, meanwhile, had runners on base in every inning and managed nine hits off of losing pitcher Jake McNeice and reliever Jake Flynn. Westfield took the lead for keeps in the fifth on an RBI single by Sean Murphy, followed by a bases-loaded walk to Anthony Clark.
Taconic's best chance to come back came in the sixth inning when Abel opened the frame with a single and Cotto-Hernandez walked. But Towle struck out DeMartino, got Deonte Sandifer on a pop to shortstop Murphy and Izaiya Mestre flied to Aidan Dunn in right to end the inning.
In the seventh, McNeice walked with one out, but was left on first as the Bombers celebrated.
What had to frustrate Taconic was its inability to get a clutch hit. The Braves were 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
"We just couldn't get key hit when we needed it," said Stannard.
The Taconic season ends just shy of the ultimate goal. The players watched as the Westfield players, coaches and fans celebrated their win. It's something the Braves will think about for 12 months.
"We're definitely going to train much harder in the off-season," said DeMartino. "We don't ever want to lose like this again."
Ryan Towle and Anthony Clark. Jake McNeice (5 1/3), Jake Flynn (1 2/3) and Brett Murphy. W—Towle. L—McNeice. 2B—T (McNeice). HR—W (Sean Moorhouse).
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.