Photo Gallery | Pittsfield American Legion Post 68 beats Aldenville 4-3
PITTSFIELD — It may have taken eight innings, but the Post 68 baseball team is the back-to-back Western Massachusetts American Legion champion.
In the bottom of the eighth inning on Monday, Jack Cooney hit a walk-off single with the bases loaded and two outs, giving his team a 4-3 win over Aldenville 337 in a rematch of last year's Western Mass. title game.
"We just never give up, we knew we were in the game," said Cooney, drenched with Gatorade. "I knew I was going to get a chance after my teammates did their job and got on base. I just put a good swing on it."
With two outs in the frame, Chad Shade grounded to short, but the second baseman's foot never hit the bag. That juiced the bases for Post 68.
Cooney came up to the plate next and the rest was history. The single to right scored Izaiya Mestre and sends Post 68 back to the state American Legion tournament.
On the mound for Aldenville was Carlos Lopez, who ended up pitching the whole game and was dominant for stretches. Post 68 did half of its scoring on a Simon Nassif two-run triple in the bottom of the first, scoring Cooney and Matt Schneider to give the team a quick two-run lead.
Sam Fick, the starting pitcher for Post 68, retired the side in the first inning on only eight pitches. For Fick, it was more of the same in the second and third innings as only one base runner reached for Aldenville.
Aldenville's first hit came in the fourth on a double by shortstop Ramon Jimenez, but Fick settled back down and retired the next five batters. After five innings, Fick had only allowed one hit and two base runners.
But for all of Fick's dominance to start, Lopez was matching him. Post 68 was able to get on base, but Lopez seemed to get out of every Post 68 threat, allowing five hits, but no runs between the second and fifth innings.
With a 2-0 score in the top of the sixth, the momentum started to tilt in the direction of Aldenville. Josey Lopez reached with only one out in the inning, and Carlos Lopez followed that up with a first-pitch double that cut Post 68's lead in half.
A yell of "we need to open the chamber of secrets," came from the Aldenville bench, hyping up the players.
Fick got Jimenez on strikes and it seemed like he was going to get out of the inning with only the run one.
But then Will Kennedy stepped to the plate, and he was what the bench meant in "chamber of secrets" as he crushed a two-run home run to right-center field that gave Aldenville its first lead of the game, 3-2. Jacob Flynn entered the game for Post 68 and stopped the damage there to get out of the inning.
In his two-plus innings of relief, Flynn only allowed on batter to reach and eventually became the winning pitcher.
"Flynn was lights out," Post 68 coach Pat Bassi said. "He made great pitches against a very good team. [Aldenville 337] is a great hitting team, a very smart team, but [Flynn] didn't make any mistakes and did his job."
With Flynn shutting down Aldenville, it opened up the door for the Post 68 offense.
In the bottom of the sixth, Matthew Stracuzzi reached on a single. With one out, Abdiel Cotto-Hernandez hit a single scoring Stracuzzi, tying the game at three.
While the game needed extra innings, Post 68 closed out the game in the 8th inning.
Post 68 now turns its sights to defending its state American Legion crown. The state tournament begins July 25 in Norwood.
Carlos Lopez and Eric Robert. Sam Fick (5 2/3), Jake Flynn (2 1/3) and Matt Schneider. W—Flynn, L—Lopez. 2B — A (Carlos Lopez). 3B — P (Simon Nassif, Izaiya Mestre). HR — A (Will Kennedy).
Contact Jake Mendel at 413-496-6250.