AMHERST -- In the first extra-inning Division I final since 1980, Saturday's Western Mass. Division I title-game loss for Taconic against Cathedral had a little bit of everything.
The game featured small-ball, plays at the plate and diving catches, but the most important decision of the game came early from Taconic coach Kevin Stannard.
After starter Joey Dewey walked two of the first three batters he faced to start the second inning, Stannard decided to use a quick hook, pulling Dewey in favor Alex Carusotto. Caru sotto pitched a gutsy 105-pitch, 623 innings effort on short rest, but Cathedral's Nate Jurkowski's eighth-inning single to center field scored Kevin Hassett to win the game 5-4.
"I can't say enough about Alex," Stannard said. "It's just something about his makeup. Being a senior and telling me he felt good. ... Whether he did or didn't, I know he was going to say what he did."
Cathedral scored twice in the first, as a lead-off walk, followed by a sacrifice bunt, led to an RBI single from Andrew Noonan. Matthew Kinney's double scored Noonan two batters later.
Carusotto allowed the two inherited runners to score in the second, but settled down after that. He gave up one run on four hits, striking out three and walking two. He pitched in all four playoff games.
Entering the game, he said he kept the same mindset he's had during his previous three appearances. "Just throw with a lot of heart," he said. "I have confidence in the defense behind me. We did make some mistakes, but they're a great group of guys. I always have confidence in my team."
Taconic rallied down four runs, scoring three in the fifth and one in the sixth to send the game into extra innings.
Dan Carroll started the fifth-inning rally with a single up the middle. He advanced to second on a ground out to the pitcher by Abdiel Cotto, and moved to third on a Carusotto single. Hassett, Cathedral's starter, walked the next two Braves to walk in Carroll. Steve Witkowski followed with a two-RBI single into right field, Carusotto and Andrew Winston scored, but Mitch Clary was thrown out at home ending the inning.
In the sixth, Dewey led off with a double and came around to score on a Josh Berthiaume single. Through out the Braves' playoff run, the bottom half of the lineup has done a lot of the heavy lifting. That continued Saturday, as the No. 8 hitter Carroll led Taconic with three hits.
"These guys have been hitting the ball for the better part of the year anyway," he said. "It took a little bit, but the umpire was pretty consistent calling the low strikes. They could look for that pitch and drive the ball."
Carusotto pitched five consecutive scoreless innings, and his defense made several key plays behind him. In the fourth, left fielder Winston threw out Cathedral's D.J. Petruzzelli at home. The entire infield executed a rundown perfectly, tagging out pinch-runner Phillip Moynihan as he ran home on a failed squeeze attempt in the sixth. The defensive highlight came with two outs in the seventh, as Winston made a diving catch in left that would have easily scored Alvarado to end the game.
Winston added that the team's defense helped relax Carusotto, allowing him to focus on throwing strikes and not having to be perfect.
Despite the team's highlight reel defensivee plays, a miscue in the eighth allowed the eventual winning run to reach base and score.
The 10th-seeded Braves' improbable season didn't result in a Western Mass. title, but Stannard said his team's season was still a successful one.
"Sixteen wins is a lot wins," he said. "We've had our ups and downs throughout the season, they just got on a nice run late in the season. Even though the No. 10 was next to our name, we felt and didn't play like a 10 seed."
Taconic 000 031 00 -- 4 9 4
Cathedral 220 000 01 -- 5 5 0
Joey Dewey (1 1/3), Alex Carusotto (6 2/3), and Kevin Squires. Kevin Hassett (6 1/3), Pete Crinella (1 2/3) and Andrew Noonan. W -- Crinella. L -- Carusotto. 2B -- Taconic 1 (Joey Dewey); Cathedral (Matthew Kinney).