WESTFIELD — The Pittsfield baseball team's streak of knocking off higher-seeded teams came to an end, as West Springfield defeated the Generals 5-4 in extra innings in the semifinals of the Western Mass Division I tournament.
The game was tied at 4-4 heading into the bottom of the eighth. West Side's Brendan Stenwick led off the inning with a single up the middle.
Pittsfield reliever Shane McMahon got UConn commit Conor Moriarty to pop out to first base, before Nick Karas dropped down a sacrifice bunt, moving Stenwick to second. Nick Dombkowksi followed with an infield single. The late throw from third base rolled past Matt Newton at first base, allowing Stenwick to score the winning run.
Dombkowski performed well in the clutch for West Side. Two days after throwing 86 pitches in the Terriers' 2-0 win over Northampton in the quarterfinals, he struck out both of the batters he faced in the top of the eighth, stranding Simon Nassif in scoring position, before plating the winning run.
"Nick pitched on Monday. ... I didn't really want to pitch him at all, but he only threw seven pitches [today] so he's fine," West Side coach Garrett Kendziera said. "I thought with the top of our lineup coming up in the next inning, that was our chance. So I wanted to use him there to give us a chance to win it in the inning."
Pittsfield needed about two innings to adjust to the curveball-heavy repertoire of Stenwick. Once the Generals started waiting back, they made solid contact off a starter struggling with his command.
In the third inning, Gabe Coyne reached base on a fielder's choice. Shane Tierney's single advanced Coyne to third and Quinn Matthews drove in Coyne with a single.
Tierney scored from third on a wild pitch, putting Pittsfield up 2-0. The Generals continued their patient approach in the fourth inning, as Simon Nassif drew a lead off walk, leading to Stenwick's exit.
Andrew Cloutier entered in relief and he too relied on his curveball to keep hitters off balance. Matt Newton drew a walk off Cloutier, and Ian Benoit followed with a bunt to the third-base side. Jack Labronche fielded the ground ball but his throw was errant, allowing Nassif to score. First baseman Troy Chaput retrieved the ball, but his throw home also missed the mark, allowing Newton to score, putting Pittsfield up 4-1.
Fick battled throughout the game, getting a force out in the fifth inning with the bases load, keeping West Side off the board.
But West Side finally got to Fick in the sixth, as three Terriers reached base to start the inning. Pittsfield coach Seamus Morrison showed faith in his ace, however, allowing Fick to work out of the jam.
He retired Chaput on a fly out, but Zach Baker scored on the sacrifice fly. An error eliminated a chance for a double play, and Moriarty followed with a RBI single. Karas drew a bases loaded walk, tying the game at 4-4. Fick retired the next two batters. The senior right-hander pitched a scoreless seventh, before giving way to McMahon. Fick struck out four in his final start for Pittsfield.
"I believed in myself and my pitching ability," Fick said of working through a stressful sixth. "I tried to block out the noise and focus on the next hitter."
Fick added that Morrison did a good job of keeping him relaxed during a mound visit, helping prevent the inning from getting out of hand.
"He doesn't really tell me what to do for each batter," Fick said. "He said, 'I know you got this. I'm just here to give you a break.' I have a deep respect for my coach because he trusts me like that."
Pittsfield did not have an extra-base hit during the game, continuing to rely on aggressive base-running and a patient approach at the plate to score. Tierney had two hits and a run scored. Nassif walked twice and stole two bases.
A year after earning the fourth seed and losing in the first round of the tournament, Morrison said as his team scrapped for a tournament berth, and each win down the stretch increased its confidence.
"The imagination is great sometimes," he said. "If you get the kids to start believing, it's easy as a coach. ... Once the kids start buying in and really believe what you're telling them, it's a great feeling to see them battle and fight."
Sam Fick (7), Shane McMahon (1) and Austin Houghtaling. Brenden Stenwick (3), Andrew Cloutier (4 1/3), Nick Dombkowksi (2/3) and Zach Baker. 2B — 2 WS (Baker 1, Jack Labranche 1). 3B — WS 1 (Conor Moriarty).
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252