PITTSFIELD — Last year, the Pittsfield National Team won the 11-12 District I Little League championship against Pittsfield American. This year was a different story, as American flipped the script in dramatic fashion and won the championship 7-6 on a walk-off.
Before the game even started, the American team was already fired up.
"That is just how they are," American head coach Ty Perrault said. "I was happy for that. The first time we played, it was a little one-sided. I knew, we all knew, that the [National team] was going to come to play."
Pitching for Pittsfield National was Mike Zwinglestein. After allowing the first two batters to reach, Brandon Stannard crushed a home run to left center to give Pittsfield American a 3-0 lead before recording an out. Three batters later, Bo Bramer clobbered a home run to make the score 5-0 at the end of the first inning.
On the mound for Pittsfield American was Kieran Coscia. After getting out of a two-on-with-two-out jam in the first, he found himself in another dilemma in the second. This time the National team took advantage, as Stevie Zuccalo scored Jake Taylor home on a single to make it 5-1.
Zwinglestein found his groove after the first. He pitched five-plus innings total, spending the next four-plus innings allowing only three hits and one run.
Down 5-1 in the top of the third, the National team started to chip away at the lead. With the bases loaded, Jared Jansen was able to squeeze a single through the infield to make it 5-2. From the third inning until the fifth inning, the National team was getting hit after hit — the only issue was the team's ability to score runs. In all three innings, Coscia, and eventually Bramer, were able to dig in, holding the National team to only one run while leaving seven on base.
It was only a matter of time until the National team put it all together, and they did. With one out in the sixth, Jaden Keefner roped a double, scoring two runs to cut the lead to 6-4. Bryce Huffman followed that with a single, scoring two more runs to tie the game. With two on and two outs, Dylan Trova limited the damage to just the four runs, making a game-saving shoe-string catch to keep the game at 6-6.
"I didn't think he was going to catch it, but he got a great jump on it" Perrault said. "I was starting to think about who we were hitting in the bottom of the inning."
It was clear the momentum was moving towards the National team. Both offenses had their big inning, but for the American team they needed one more big hit.
The National team was able to get two-quick outs in the next half-inning. With Stannard at the plate, the National team knew they had to be careful to get a third. They wound up walking him on four-straight pitches, putting the game-winning run at first base. Mike Britten followed that with another walk. With the winning run now at second, Owen Kroboth stepped in to the box. Kroboth was 1-3 on the day, and found himself in a quick 0-2 hole. Even though the count was against him, he was able to sneak a single into right field, allowing Stannard to score and lifting American to the walk-off championships victory.
"We knew we could beat this team, Kroboth said. "I was just trying to stay focused and get a base hit."
Pittsfield American now advances to the state Section I tournament, which begins next Wednesday.