Wednesday August 1, 2012

WESTFIELD -- It was a disastrous start for Pittsfield.

Facing elimination in the Babe Ruth 13-year-old New England regional, Pittsfield had given up three runs and committed three errors in the first two innings against Manchester (N.H.). Pitcher Shane McMahon was even struggling to snag the return toss from his catcher.

"We started out slow. I don't know if their heads weren't in it or what," said Pittsfield manager Matt Stracuzzi. "We just looked dead."

McMahon provided some life in the second, driving a two-run double to left-center that tied the game. He would allow just one more baserunner the rest of the game, keeping Pittsfield going with a 6-3 victory at Westfield's Bullens Field.

"I was bursting," McMahon said of the tying double. "I was down because I just gave up three runs. I almost gave up another run in the second inning but I came up in a big situation with two outs and I got to tie it. That boosted up my confidence."

The win moves Pittsfield into today's losers' bracket final against New Milford (Conn.) at 6 p.m. in Westfield. The winner of that game draws Westfield in the championship round on Thursday.

Pittsfield's championship hopes appeared on life support early on Tuesday. After Manchester scored three times on two errors and a pair of hits in the first, the New Hampshire state champions threatened again in the second. Patrick Swanson made it to third before McMahon induced a groundout.

McMahon was dominant from there on. Manchester didn't get another baserunner until the seventh, a string of 13 consecutive batters.

"What can I say about Shane McMahon?" Stracuzzi said. "Wow, he was unbelievable. He was around the plate the whole night, kept them off balance. His curve was on, which was beautiful, and he snuck the fastball right by them."

Austin Cancilla gave McMahon a lead he would not relinquish, coming home on a passed ball in the fourth. It's the second straight day Pittsfield has gotten the winning run on either a wild pitch or a passed ball.

"We started off the game really rough," Cancilla said. "Everybody was down. We picked each other up and we came back and won."

Pittsfield will hope to ride that momentum again tonight. Stracuzzi has now gotten complete game victories from two different pitchers this week. He'll be looking for a third ace against New Milford.

"Simon [Nassif]'s not going to be able to go. He just pitched [Monday]," Stracuzzi said. "Somebody's going to have to step up [today]. We'll see. I know they will because they're ready for the challenge.

"It's a challenge now to come out of the losers' bracket, but we're embracing it."

To reach Christopher James:
cjames@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6252.
On Twitter: @BECJ2K.