WORCESTER -- The Pittsfield Suns were one pitch away from taking their Futures League playoff game with Worcester into an 11th inning. Andy Lack had another idea.
The Bravehearts' shortstop hit a 3-1 pitch from reliever Nate Spiel vogel into center field, scoring Nate Pajka with the winning run as the Suns dropped a 4-3 extra-inning decision on Monday night, knocking the Suns out of the playoffs.
Dan Palazzo's two-run single in the seventh inning tied the game at 3. Neither team could break the tie in regulation. The Suns did have runners on the corners with two outs in the 10th inning, but couldn't get the run home.
"You get every chance to believe and that got us off to the right start," Suns outfielder Gary Tesch said of Palazzo's hit. "Unfortunately, things just didn't fall our way and things fell their way.
"It's tough. I don't really have a lot of words right now."
While the West Division champion Bravehearts swept the best-of-three series with the Suns, both games came down to one pitch. On Sunday, it was the pitch Jordan Berry hit for an eighth-inning grand slam. One day later, it was the single by Lack that broke the tie.
"What a series. [Sunday] got a little out of hand but it was great game for the most part. Then tonight was great baseball. It's good for the league. It's good for the Futures League, coming out here and putting out a product like this," Suns manager Tom Conley said. "These guys busted their tails for me all summer.
"It's not a short season, coming off the spring, and they gave everything they had."
The Bravehearts will play East Division champion Martha's Vineyard in a best-of-three series that is scheduled to start tonight on the Vineyard. The Sharks beat Torrington 7-3 to sweep that series 2-0.
The Suns never got a chance to take a lead in this game, twice coming from behind to tie it. The second time came in the top of the seventh.
Leadoff hitter Zach Tower, who grew up in Auburn, about three miles down the road from Hanover Insurance Park, walked on a 3-2 pitch from reliever Josh Desai. Desai worked a 3-2 count on Luke Reynolds and then hit the outfielder.
Desai, who had not given up a run in any appearance this summer, struck out Tesch and Tyler Bell. Desai worked a 3-2 count on Steve Dill, who beat out an infield single to second baseman Darian Ramage, loading the bases. Palazzo fouled off a 2-2 pitch and then lined a two-run single to left. Tower and Reynolds scored easily, but Dill was out trying to get to third.
"He tried to back door a couple [of curve balls]. He tried to come in with a fastball," said Palazzo. "I got jammed, broke my bat and got enough of it."
That hit gave the Suns a little late life.
"I thought it was" an opening for the Suns, said Reynolds. "[Palazzo has] been big for us all year. And then the way to start the inning like that, you have to think in your head that it's got to happen."
The inning in question was the 10th and Palazzo opened with a single to right. Tad Martin moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt, but reliever Sean Gustin then struck Derek Gardella out. Donohue reached on an error by Lack, putting runners on the corners. Tower hit a pitch to right, ending the threat.
Lack made up for that error in the home half of the 10th. Spielvogel gave up a leadoff single to Pajka and struck out Tyler McVicar before giving up a single to Ian Strom, sending Pajka to third.
Strom stole on the first pitch to Thomas Paine, who was later called out on a 3-2 pitch. Spielvogel got strike one on Lack, but threw three straight balls. Then Lack singled to center, ending the game.
"It's about hitting in the right time in the game, with two outs," said Worcester manager Justin Edwards. "When [Palazzo] got the hit, it's almost like you say you can't panic."
While the Suns were making their comeback, relievers Jordan Barbarotta and Nate Spielvogel were keeping the Bravehearts off the board.
Barbarotta, the Taconic High School product who hadn't pitched since July 10 because of a sore arm, gave up a run in the sixth on a base hit by Brendan O'Reilly. The Pittsfield righty then retired five of the next six batters he faced, giving up only an infield single.
Then Spielvogel entered the game and set the side down in order in the eighth and ninth, striking out the side in the ninth. That set the stage for the 10th.
"It's been great all summer. It's a great group of guys," said Dill. "There's no one I'd rather be out here with."
Pitts. 000 100 200 0 -- 3 8 2
Wor. 001 101 000 1 -- 4 12 4
Reese (5), Barbarotta (2), Spielvogel (2 2/3) and Gardella. Bergman (6), Desai (1), Sheehan (1), Gustin (1) and Paine. W-Gustin (1-0). L-Spielvogel (0-1). 2B- W 1 (DeYoung). A-2,011.
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