Friday July 20, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- There's nothing like a little home cooking to help a baseball team with its backs against the wall.

Having lost the first game in the Section 1 Little League Tournament, Pittsfield South needed to beat West Boylston Thursday night to keep their Massachusetts State Tournament hopes alive. A night at Deming Field did the trick.

Joe Cracolici pitched 2 2/3 innings of relief to get the win and Drew DeMartino hit a pair of home runs and drove in seven as South bounced back from an opening-game loss with a 12-6 win over West Boylston. South pounded four West Boylston pitchers for 14 hits.

"It's great. I really like being at home," said Cracolici. "It makes it so much easier when you have your fans here."

By virtue of Thursday's win, Pittsfield South will get one more game at Deming, as it will play Leominster National tonight at 5:30. With a 1-1 record, South is the higher seeded team because Leominster lost to Westfield South 6-4 on Thursday, and is 0-2.

"We are very excited. We don't want to have our 12-year old season to be done," said DeMartino, who hit a grand slam in the third inning and a three-run jack in the fifth. "We don't want to stop playing in Little League."

South was coming off a 12-5 loss at Westfield on Wednesday and after losing the coin flip, was the designated visiting team. Pittsfield didn't score in the first.

West Boylston, 33-10 winners over Leominster on Wednesday, got a run on one hit, two passed balls and when starter Shaun Morgan threw a wild pitch, Joe Lacroix scampered home from third with a run. Morgan got out of the jam with one run as he struck out Sam Welsh and Ted Solomodies to end the inning.

South took the lead for keeps with three runs in the top of the second inning on four hits and two West Boylston errors. Ryan Keenan's squeeze bunt base hit plated Isiah Provencher with the game's first run. Jack Cooney drove in a run and Keenan came home on an error by Lacroix at shortstop.

Those runs put South ahead for keeps. If West Boylston had any thoughts that it was going to be a tight evening, DeMartino quashed them when he ripped a 2-0 pitch from starter Kyle Kapopoulos over the fence with the bases loaded. The grand slam was the key blow of a five-run third inning that put South up 8-1.

"They hit the ball great tonight," West Boylston manager Mike Kapopoulos said of Pittsfield South. "I thought our pitchers threw strikes but you have to give them the credit. They put the bat on the ball tonight."

The Pittsfield South defense, deficient on Wednesday by committing seven errors in the first three innings, came up huge in the home fifth.

Cranston led off with an infield single. The next batter was Jake Telles, and he hit the ball back to Cracolici. The pitcher turned and threw to DeMartino. The shortstop tagged second and threw to first for a nifty 1-6-3 double play.

"I didn't know if I was going to get the out at second because I didn't know where the base was at first," DeMartino said. "I was just looking at Joe to see if he got the ball. When I felt the base and I caught it, then I knew I had a chance at first base."

Cracolici then retired the final four hitters he faced, catching A.J. Pirro's pop-up to close out the victory. Cooney, Morgan, Rose and Isiah Provencher all had two hits each.

Here's where everything gets a little tricky. If West Boylston beats Westfield tonight, there will be a three-way tie in the pool at 2-1. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head and each team would have beaten the other team. The second tiebreaker is defensive runs allowed.

"Our defense is our key," Pittsfield manager Ty Perrault said. "Our pitching is not overpowering, so we have to make the plays in the field. Today we were much better in the field than yesterday. Today, we were much more focused. "

To reach Howard Herman:

hherman@berkshireeagle.com,

(413) 496-6253.

On Twitter: @howardherman