PITTSFIELD -- Liam Nolan got to welcome back an old friend on Thursday afternoon. Because of that, Nolan and Pittsfield Post 68 advance in the American Legion baseball tournament.
Nolan, two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, dominated Westfield Post 124 in six innings. He held Westfield to two hits and struck out nine in Post 68's 8-1 victory at Clapp Park.
"My curveball actually was working. It was the first time I threw it in two years," said Nolan.
Nolan had at least one strikeout in every inning. He gave up a one-out double to Connor Sas in the second inning and a double to Brent Houle in the fourth. Nolan pitched out of a jam in that fourth, as Westfield had two runners in scoring position with one out. Nolan retired the side without damage.
"Being a pitching coach, I'm very happy," Post coach Pat Bassi said. "I'm very happy for Liam to see him throw an exceptional game tonight."
Post 68 will play East Springfield on Saturday, after East Side beat Longmeadow 5-4 on Thursday.
The game started as a pitchers' duel. Nolan and Westfield's Matt Irzyk put up zeroes for three innings, and both pitchers had given up a hit each.
Westfield missed its opportunity to break the tie in the fourth, but Post 68 did not. With one out, Post loaded the bases. Joey Dewey then grounded to third. Sas handled the ball easily, but his throw bounced past catcher Cam Robitaille and Mitch Clary came home with the first run.
"We saw [Irzyk] a lot in Western Mass. I think we saw him for six or seven innings," Witkowski said of the Westfield High School pitcher who faced Taconic in the Division I tournament. "It was one time through and remember what he had."
Post 68 wasn't close to being done. Nick Rufo hit an RBI single, Witkowski scored from third on a wild pitch and Alex Carusotto singled home Rufo to make it 6-0 in an inning in which 10 hitters went to the plate. None of it might have happened were it not for Sas' error.
"Coach Bassi said the other day that usually in big games, the guys who make the least amount of mistakes are going to come out on top," said Witkowski. "Today, we made the least amount of mistakes."
Witkowski's two-run single in the fifth put Post 68 up 8-0. Westfield got a run off reliever Joey Dewey in the seventh, accounting for the final score.
Westfield 000 000 1 -- 1 3 3
Post 68 000 620 x -- 8 8 2
Matt Irzyk (3 1/3), Brent Houle (2/3), Tim Kelleher (2) and Cam Robitaille (5), Brendan Gawron (1). Liam Nolan (6), Joey Dewey (1) and Brian Bonacquisti. W--Nolan. L--Irzyk. 2B--W 3 (Connor Sas, Houle, Colin Dunn). P 1 (Mitch Clary).
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