CHICOPEE -- It has been 22 years since a Berkshire County baseball team has won a state championship. Mount Everett will be the next team to try and bring one home.
The Eagles scored three unearned runs in the first inning and pitcher Erik Derwitsch made them stand up by pitching a three-hit shutout as the Western Massachusetts Division III champions beat Central Mass. champion Oxford 3-0 Tuesday afternoon at a soggy Szot Park.
"It hasn't sunk in yet. I just walked off the mound -- no words," said Derwitch after the Eagles had a brief postgame meeting in the outfield and returned to the cheers of their South Berkshire fans. "We didn't make any errors. We got three early runs, which was important to give me a cushion. We played great baseball today."
Alex Crane's two-run single in the first inning put the Eagles on top for keeps. Derwitsch did the rest. The left-hander walked one, struck out five and allowed only three runners to get into scoring position. He retired the final four batters quietly to send the Eagles to the state final.
"Everything is gravy but we want to win Saturday," said Everett shortstop Colby Rueger, who fielded a grounder by James Sheehan to end the game. "It would be great just to say we made it. It would be even better if we won the whole thing."
The Eagles will meet North Reading for the state title. The North Sectional champion beat south champion East Bridgewater 5-3 on Tuesday at LeLacheur Park in Lowell.
Mount Everett and North Reading will play at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field on the campus at Holy Cross in Worcester.
The last team to win a state title was Drury in 1990. The last Division III team to reach a state final was St. Joseph's, who fell to Harwich in the 2007 title game.
Anyone stuck in Mass Pike traffic might have missed all the action in this game.
Derwitsch needed only 13 pitches to retire the Pirates in order in the first inning. Oxford's Nick Cardoni got the first two hitters in the bottom of the first. A four-pitch walk to Dylan Wheeler started things unraveling.
Garrett Torrico reached on an error by third baseman Cody Stone and Cardoni plunked Will Danz to load the bases. Crane hit the eighth pitch of his at bat to center, plating Wheeler and Torrico. A wild throw by center fielder Tyler Barrie moved the runners to second and third and Nick Bruzios booted Derwitch's grounder at short to score the third run.
"We picked the absolute worst time in the world to have the worst inning we've played all year," Oxford coach Justin Richards said. "We tend to not make errors, but three errors in the same inning, it happens. We had two outs and nobody on. A walk, a hit, a couple of errors and that'll do it."
Cardoni otherwise pitched fairly well. He only gave up three hits and struck out eight, but he walked two and hit four.
Everett left two runners stranded in the first and over the first four, the Eagles stranded seven. They loaded the bases with no outs in the third but Cardoni pitched out of the jam.
"We do a good job of what we call humpty-dumptying pitchers, where we get the pitcher to break to pieces and they have to put him back together," Everett coach Jesse Carpenter said. "All year long, and in the last 11 years that I've coached, we take advantage of when the other team doesn't make plays. Today was the first time we really struggled hitting in the tournament."
That turned out to be OK because Derwitsch did his part. The Pirates had only one base runner in the first three innings. They had leadoff hits in the fifth and sixth, only to come up empty.
Barrie's infield hit led off the fifth. He was bunted to second and went to third on a ground out. Nick Bates hit a 1-2 pitch to right where Andrew Blume seemed to have trouble tracking the ball in the rain. But Blume made the catch to end the inning. Derwitsch was holding his breath.
"Yeah, because that would have been the first run," he said. "When that happens, then anything can happen with them. They could score a bunch of runs."
It's the third time Derwitsch has pitched in a tournament semifinal game and the third time he has not given up an earned run.
"He hasn't given up an earned run, or any runs, in 21 innings. That's about as close to ridiculous as you get in baseball," said Carpenter. "He just goes out there and deals and deals. He doesn't give in. We are blessed to have two pitchers who are as tough as nails."
The other pitcher is Dylan Wheeler, who took the bump in the Western Mass. final and will toe the rubber on Saturday.
"We'll come back with Wheeler," said Carpenter, "and hope for the best."
Oxford 000 000 0--0 3 4
Everett 300 000 0--3 3 0
Records: Everett (17-8), Oxford (18-6)
Nick Cardoni and James Sheridan. Erik Derwitsch and Alex Crane. W -- Derwitsch. L -- Cardoni. 2B -- Oxford 1 (Cody Stone).