PITTSFIELD — That's four in a row for the Pittsfield Suns. They are, however, going in the wrong direction.
Wachusett broke a tie with two runs in the top of the 12th inning Wednesday night at Wahconah Park. The Suns scored a run in the home 12th, but Justin Morhardt struck out with the tying run on second base as the Dirt Dawgs escaped with a 4-3 win. It was the Suns' fourth consecutive loss.
"The one thing about this group of guys is we're always in the game, no matter what the score is, what the inning is," said Pittsfield shortstop Thomas Hughes, "we're fighting."
The loss negated some outstanding pitching for the Suns. Starter R.J. Hall gave up seven hits in seven innings, but threw five innings of shutout baseball after giving up single runs in the first and second. Jordan Muchin and Declan Cronin each pitched two shutout innings of relief. Cronin has now thrown 11 1/3 innings and has not given up a run.
"R.J. kind of set the tone. He missed a week a couple of weeks ago and last week he was at 60 pitches. He only threw 75 through seven," said Pittsfield manager Tom Conley. "Like you said, the bullpen was good."
The Suns fell behind 2-0 after two innings and once again had trouble shifting into high gear. The Suns did strand six runners in the first four innings, but had only one hit to show for it. They didn't get on the board until scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh.
"We usually start out hot, but in the last week we've been kind of struggling out of the gates," said Hughes. "We've been working hard on our preparation, really trying to get out of the gates hot.
"It'll come. Hitting is contagious."
It can't come soon enough for Conley, whose team hasn't had a lot of big innings lately. The manager said he thinks that's getting to his hitters just a bit.
"I think the effort is there. The hitting, I think guys are getting a little too frustrated up there and carrying at-bats into their next at-bats," said Conley. "We really need some innings here, hopefully [Thursday] where we can string it together and put up a crooked number."
After Pittsfield got those two runs in the seventh, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Hamilton and a wild pitch, Pittsfield did not threaten again until the 12th. The same could be said for Wachusett. But the Dirt Dawgs did help the Suns out with some shoddy base running.
In the ninth, Taylor Cacciola worked a one-out walk against Jordan Muchin. But with Ryan Lever up, Muchin hung Cacciola out to dry and picked him off first base. The more unusual play came an inning later.
Wachusett's Sean Webster hit a fly ball to right that the Suns' Brian Moskey dropped for an error. It was a rare misstep for the Pittsfield right fielder, who threw a runner out at second and a runner out at home.
Ryan Ogren was the next batter and he tried to sacrifice the runner up. Catcher Justin Glover threw Ogren out, but second baseman John Nollet — who covered at first — threw to short and Hughes tagged out Webster, who had taken too wide a turn at second for the rare 2-4-6 double play.
Things fell apart for the Suns in the 12th. With one out, Cacciola and Lever hit back-to-back singles off of Matt Cuneo, the fourth Pittsfield pitcher. A wild pitch sent Cacciola to third and he scored on a squeeze bunt by Webster. Webster just beat the throw to first and Lever ended up on third. A double steal allowed Lever to scored with what proved to be the winning run.
"They got that third run on the suicide squeeze and we tried a pitch out with first and third, and we just couldn't execute that play," said Conley.
The Suns got two quick outs in the 12th before Hughes doubled down the right-field line. Hamilton followed with laser to deep left-center. That scored Hughes and Hamilton ended up on second. That's where he stayed because Morhardt thought he held on strike three, but the umpires ruled differently.
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.