WESTFIELD -- In a baseball game that is in extra innings, one pitch can make all the difference.
Jack Scarafoni drove a 1-0 pitch over the head of Bennington left fielder Josh Commali with two outs in the home ninth inning and pinch runner Ross Omelenchuck scampered home easily from third, as Pittsfield won its first game in the New England 13-year old Babe Ruth Tournament 3-2 in extra innings on Friday at Bullens Field.
"It felt really good off the bat," said Scarafoni. "I knew I got a hold of it, but the left fielder was playing as if he caught it. It was a little nerve-racking at the end, but it went over his head. All's well that ends well."
There was some free baseball because Pittsfield got a run on no hits and four Bennington errors in the fifth inning. That squared things up because the Vermont All-Stars scored a run without a hit in the fourth.
"I'm just so proud of the way these kids hung together," Pittsfield manager Matt Stracuzzi said. "I've been preaching to pick guys up."
Pittsfield will play tonight at 7 against the winner of the final game of the first day. Manchester (N.H.) was playing host Westfield, and the result was not known at press time.
Pittsfield avoided problems in the top of the ninth after Bennington's Ryan O'Neill reached on an error by Pittsfield first baseman Shane Tierney, who couldn't handle an infield throw. From there, Pittsfield flashed some serious leather to get out of the inning.
Jon Iris, who gave up two runs in seven innings on the mound, hit a sharp grounder back to the box where Pittsfield reliever Shane McMahon fielded and got a force for the first out. Simon Nassif, who also went seven innings on the bump, was at third when he made a nifty play on a grounder hit by Commali, forcing Iris for the second out. Griff Stallup hit one behind the mound. Second baseman Matthew Stracuzzi ranged far to his right, backhanding the ball and flipping to short for the out.
"The play that Matthew made was key. If that ball goes through, who knows what's going to happen," said the Pittsfield manager.
The bane of any manager's existence is a lead-off walk, and McMahon got one on four pitches to open the Pittsfield ninth. Omelenchuck went into run and took second when Jordan Nassif beat out a sacrifice bunt attempt. Ty Bramer moved the runners up with a ground out and Ryan Abel fouled out for the second out of the inning.
Scarafoni, who had struck out twice and didn't get the ball out of the infield in his other two at-bats, watched the first pitch for ball one. The second pitch from Stallup was driven into left and over the head of Commali for the winning RBI.
"Early in my at-bats, I was swinging at a lot of high pitches, and I was trying to lay off that," said Scarafoni. "I saw one just about letter-high and I tried as hard as I could to push it past the left fielder."
Both teams had numerous chances to score earlier, but couldn't push runs across. Bennington left the bases loaded in the fifth inning, when they got to Pittsfield starter Simon Nassif for a run on four hits. Bennington left runners in scoring position in three other innings.
"This team is a much better hitting team than what we showed today," said Bennington manager Daryl Lamoureaux. "I don't know if it's nerves coming on the big stage. We had a beautiful pitching performance by our starting pitcher. I think we just didn't get the hits we needed."
Iris gave up two runs, one earned, on four hits in seven innings. Nassif was nearly as good, giving up two runs on six hits. Nassif didn't walk anyone, struck out six and only one of those runs was earned.
"He struggled a little bit in the states, but I talked to him before the game and said ‘You've got to come out, it's regionals, and big-game pitchers come out and throw game one,' " the Pittsfield manager said. "He came out firing. He was throwing with some speed. He got them off balance a little bit and he went after hitters."
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