Photo Gallery | Lenox Baseball loses to Oxford in Western Mass final
WESTFIELD — If life truly is about the journey and not the destination, then the Lenox baseball team will wash away the memory of Tuesday's MIAA Division IV semifinals at Westfield State University by thinking of the path that got the Millionaires to there.
In the meantime, the Western Mass. champions will have to live with their 22-2 loss to Central Mass. champion Oxford.
Lenox gave up 14 hits in the loss and committed eight errors, allowing the Pirates to extend innings and stack up their lead. When all was said and done, the Millionaires (17-7) were left staring down the end of their season.
"Unfortunately, we picked today to be our worst defensive game all year long," Lenox coach Kevin Downer said. "We didn't make the routine plays, that happens sometimes.
"These guys are human."
The loss, though, wasn't a runaway contest at first.
In the top of the first Oxford scored four runs, parlaying three straight Connor Hanson walks into the first two runs before using an error and a single to drive in two more runs.
Lenox came back with a run in the second on an RBI single by Luke Murphy, and kept itself in striking distance as Hanson settled into the contest.
But then the Pirates piled on.
Sending 11 batters to the plate in the top of the fourth, Oxford put six runs past Lenox – all with two outs.
After Hanson got Zach Renihan to pop up for the second out of the inning with runners on first and second, the Pirates got to the Millionaire starter with three straight RBI hits. Jared Buckley started with an RBI single, Bryce St. Germain followed up with a two-run double, then Matt Grasseschi hit a one-run single and suddenly the game was 8-1.
Grasseschi's hit chased Hanson from the game, but before reliever Mike Hurley could get out of the inning, he committed an error that allowed one run in, then Cam Cardoni – who led off the inning – hit an RBI single.
"I thought [Lenox] countered [the first inning] real well," Oxford coach Justin Richards said. "I thought they were close to even getting the momentum. I told [my team] when they came in the third and the fourth we needed a couple of runs, because I really felt that if [Lenox] struck next, they were right around taking the whole game over."
Oxford put its foot on the pedal in the fifth, scoring nine runs on three hits and three Lenox errors with two outs in the inning. Renihan led the way in the inning, hitting two singles and scoring two runs in a 14-batter inning.
"With 4-1 we were right in the game," Downer said. "We kicked the ball around a couple of innings, and that's the difference of not staying in the game."
Lenox pulled one run back in the sixth on an RBI single by Pat Colvin, but that was it for the Millionaires.
Hanson struck out three batters and walked four on six hits for 10 runs, seven earned, in the loss. Dave Meech threw four innings to get the win, striking out six on six hits and one walk.
Renihan went 2 for 4 in the win, scoring three runs while drawing a walk and being hit by a pitch. St. Germain went 2 for 3 with three runs scored and three walks drawn. Murphy went 2 for 3 in the loss with the RBI, while Noah Hunter went 2 for 4.
The loss marks the end of five Millionaires' careers, with Colvin, Tyler Coon, Emerson Wolski, Jack Ellrodt and John Fontaine all graduated. Downer got choked up when discussing his seniors.
"Probably can't ask for five better seniors," he said. "That's one of the reasons we won a Western Mass. title, because of the leadership of those guys. I tip my hat to those five seniors."
He also shared how he discussed the loss with his whole team.
"You just have to hold your heads high and say 'hey, 45 years, you break the curse, you won a Western Mass. title, that's something special,'" Downer said. "So, I couldn't be more proud of these kids. They worked hard, they never quit today, and they battled right to the very end. That's the kind of character these kids have."
Dave Meech (4), Bryce St. Germain (1), Austin Greene (1), Colin Ryan (1) and Zach Renihan. Connor Hanson (3 2/3), Mike Hurley (1), James Matragano, Tyler Coon (2 1/3) and Noah Hunter. W—Meech, L—Hanson. 2B — O 1 (St. Germain).
Contact Geoff Smith at 413-496-6254.