Thursday August 2, 2012

WESTFIELD -- In a game that turned out to be not very close at all, one inning did make all the difference.

The Pittsfield 13-year old Babe Ruth All-Stars gave up a run on a walk, hit batter and a balk in the top of the first inning. Pittsfield came back in the home first with consecutive hard-hit singles to lead off. That was the good news.

However, two pop outs and a runner picked off second base ended the threat, deflated the Pittsfield balloon and gave New Milford (Conn.) all the momentum. The Connecticut champions went on to earn a 13-0 win, in a game that was stopped after five innings by the 10-run rule.

"Honestly, that's the whole game right there for us," New Milford manager Joe Vaughey said. "In this game, you score early, you keep trying to tack [runs] on and you keep them off the board -- when they get momentum -- that sets the tone."

New Milford pounded Pittsfield pitching for 12 hits. It didn't seem to matter who manager Matt Stracuzzi sent to the mound, the guys from Connecticut were swinging the bats. Stracuzzi used five pitchers, including starter Connor McDonough, who did not get out of the second inning.

"We were hoping he was going to give us four or five good innings like he did the other night against Westfield," said Stracuzzi. "He didn't have his good stuff. I told everybody that everybody's on board pitching. Tonight, that team was just too good of a team."

Things started out in a rocky fashion for the Pittsfield nine. Shortstop Jordan Nassif was hit in the mouth during infield practice, and while he played the first inning on defense, he couldn't come out for the second inning. That set Stracuzzi's lineup merry-go-round going.

But the key to the game came in the home first. Trailing 1-0, Jack Scarafoni ripped a single to right and Matthew Stracuzzi followed with a sharp single to center.

"I looked at my coach in the dugout and said ‘We're in for a good one tonight.' These guys can hit," said Vaughey. "Two shots right up the middle, and we got a little momentum when we shut them down."

New Milford starter Tim Gesauldi got Shane Tierney on a pop to "T" Vaughey at second and Simon Nassif popped to Tyler Hansen at short. Chad Supranowicz worked the count full, but Scarafoni got caught leaning the wrong way, and he was picked off second to end the threat and the inning.

"When we got picked off second, that was the game," the Pittsfield manager said. "It was on a 3-2 pitch and it was a mental breakdown on our part. That was something we hadn't done a lot of. That really killed us."

Pittsfield fell behind 4-0 after three innings when the wheels came off. New Milford sent 12 batters to the plate, scoring eight runs on eight hits. Stracuzzi used three different pitchers in the inning, hoping someone could stop the bleeding.

Pinch-hitter Reese Zimmerman had a two-run double in the frame and when Chris Ryan doubled to left-center, Zimmerman scored the 12th run.

From there, it was more a question of when the game would end.

Gesauldi threw his allotted three innings, giving up three hits and striking out four. He retired the final six batters he faced, striking out four. Hansen and Ryan also threw for New Milford, as the Connecticut champions advance to play Westfield today at 3. If New Milford wins, the "if" game would follow.

"Like I told them, we started out a month ago and now we're ending up the No. 3 team in the [New England] region. I'm very proud of these kids for attaining that," said Stracuzzi. "Our goal was to win this and we came close."

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