Saturday July 21, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Kyle Card gave Pittsfield Post 68 a big lift on the mound Friday, and helped send his team into the American Legion baseball playoff championship game.

Card held the Tyler Aces scoreless over the first five innings and then hung on as Post 68 beat the Aces 6-4 Friday at Clapp Park.

"It was great to get the ball," said Card, who went the distance. "I like to pitch in big games like this and get the win for our team."

Post 68 will travel to Joe Wolfe Field at 11 this morning to play North Adams for the county championship and a berth in the state championship tournament. North Adams beat Post 7-0 on Wednesday at Clapp.

"[North Adams] flat-out beat us and we're looking for redemption," said Post 68 right fielder Zach Neary, who went 2 for 3 with a run-batted in. "We want to go out on a high note and win a championship."

If Post 68 wins today's game, there will be an "if" game played in Pittsfield Sunday afternoon at a site to be determined.

Friday's game played out like a microcosm of the season for manager Bill Dassat's Aces. With four starters on the sidelines due to injuries, the Aces only had nine players in uniform. They also left runners in scoring position in five of their seven innings.

"We didn't capitalize on key situations," said Dassat. "That's our M.O. We try too damn hard to get runs and we give runs up easily."

The Aces were 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position in the first five innings. Post 68 got on the board in the bottom of the second inning with two runs on two hits and a costly error.

Andrew Ringie led off with a single, Neary walked and Liam Nolan sacrificed the runners up. Aces starter Andrew Leitch struck out Ryan Shook but walked Brian Bonacquisti on four pitches. Card grounded to short, but Eric Leitch's error allowed Ringie and Neary to score.

Neary's RBI single in the third made it 3-0 and Hunter Stanton's RBI base hit in the fourth gave Post 68 a 4-0 lead.

While Post 68 took its lead, Card helped his team's cause by keeping the Tyler Aces off the board. At one point, he retired 11 of 13 batters. The Aces actually threatened in the first as Eric Leitch and Tanner Hanford both singled. Trevor Johnston hit into a 4-6-3 double play, with first baseman Liam Nolan making a nifty scoop of a low throw from Post 68 shortstop Peter Gregory.

"Kyle's big thing is that it's probably been close to 10 days since he's pitched, so his command wasn't quite there," Post 68 manager Jim Mazzer said. "His pitch count wasn't all that bad. We made some nice plays behind him, scored enough runs and the young kid gave me a nice effort."

The Aces got on the board in the sixth when Billy New doubled to right-center, scoring Johnston from second base.

The momentum felt from that run was blunted in the home sixth. Andrew Leitch walked Card to start the sixth and walked Hunter Stanton on four pitches with one out. Consecutive singles by Gregory and Ringie brought home the fifth and sixth runs.

"The inning we scored a run, instead of shutting them down, we gave them two runs back," said Dassat. "That's hard to catch up that way."

The Aces did make it interesting by sending eight batters to the plate in the top of the seventh. Card loaded the bases and hit Hanford to force in a run. Johnston's sacrifice fly scored a run and Andrew Leitch grounded into a force play that scored his brother Eric from third, making it 6-4.

Card walked New on four pitches and the potential winning run came to the plate in Josh Conant. But Card struck Conant out to end the game.

"[North Adams] got us last game," Post 68's Corey Decker said. "We want to get them the next game. They're probably our biggest competitor, besides the Aces, so it's definitely a big one."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman