NORWOOD — Pittsfield Post 68 staved off elimination again, earning an 8-7 win over Lowell on Wednesday at Peter Wall Field, clinching a spot in the American Legion Regional Tournament in Bristol, Conn.
Pittsfield was set to play for a chance at its second consecutive state championship, facing off against Shrewsbury following the Lowell win. That game was not be completed before press time.
The game was back-and-forth, but pitcher Izaiya Mestre helped Post 68 shut the door. The rising senior entered the game in the fifth inning, one day after pitching five scoreless against Norwood. Mestre pitched well, but when he was hit, he was hit hard.
Leading 8-5 after five, Keith Lynch and Joseph Csokmay hit solo home runs in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively. The latter brought Lowell within one.
Csokmay looked as if he hit a potential tying home run with two outs in the ninth, but the ball went just foul. On the next pitch, Mestre froze him with an inside fastball for the strikeout, clinching the win.
"I lost about five years off my life," Pittsfield coach Pat Bassi said jokingly of Csokmay's long foul ball.
Mestre was not originally in line to pitch against Lowell. However, after the scheduled starter Ethan Forfa left the team due to personal reasons, Sam Fick got the start. Fick lasted four and two-thirds innings before giving way to Mestre. Despite not receiving any rest, the Taconic right-hander still had velocity on his fastball and bite on his offspeed pitches.
"[My arm] was little sore, but [Bassi] came up to me at the hotel and asked me to throw," Mestre said. "I was like 'I'll do it to get the win.' So I beared down and got the job done."
Offensively, Chad Shade continued his hot streak, going 3 for 5 with three RBI, two steals and two runs scored.
Lowell took a 3-0 lead after two, but Shade helped Post 68 battle back. His double plated Patrick Colvin for their first run of the game. Abdiel Cotto-Hernandez scored on an error and Matt Schneider added a two-run single, putting Pittsfield up 4-3.
Alex Cruz's two-run single put Lowell back on top in third, but again, Pittsfield had an answer.
Brett Murphy led off the fourth with a walk. Colvin dropped down a drag bunt along the first-base side for a single and Cotto-Hernandez's bunt attempt forced an error, plating Murphy. Shade followed with an RBI triple and scored on Jack Cooney's ground out, diving headfirst into home plate, sliding just under the tag.
Shade's RBI single in the sixth scored Colvin for Post 68's final run. Shade is 8 of 11 the last two games. It's clear elimination games bring the best out of the former General.
"Your life is on the line. It's one-and-done," he said. "It's been like that the last two game and this one here, we're playing to win state.
"It's competitiveness, knowing that if you lose you go home. I'm just doing whatever it takes to win."
After ending a 55-year drought with their state title last year, Shade said the team wants to make history and be the first Pittsfield Legion team to win back-to-back state titles.
Sam Fick (4 2/3), Izaiya Mestre (4 1/3) and Matt Schnieder. Derek Theriault (2 2/3), Dalton Quinn (2 2/3), Zachary Gitschier (3 1/3) and Alex Cruz. W — Mestre. L — Quinn. 2B — P 2 (Schneider, Chad Shade), L — 1 (Cruz). 3B — P 2 (Shade, Matt Koperniak). HR — L 2 (Keith Lynch, Joseph Csokmay).
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252