Photo Gallery | Pittsfield Suns play Martha's Vineyard Sharks
PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield Suns have had trouble holding on to leads this season, but on Tuesday against Martha's Vineyard, the bullpen stood strong as three relievers held the Sharks without an earned run over five innings for an 8-6 win.
Suns designated hitter Eric Hamilton led the offense, going 3 for 4 with three runs batted in. The three RBI gave Hamilton 55 on the season, setting a new Futures League single-season record, breaking the previous mark of 53.
Leading 6-5, Taconic graduate Alex Carusotto entered in the fifth with two runners on. He allowed a single to the first batter he faced, loading the bases, before getting Jack Owens to fly out to center field for the first out.
Dylan Maher followed and Carusotto got him to ground into a 4-6-3 double play — started by Pittsfield graduate Kevin Donati — ending the inning.
Carusotto pitched out of a another jam in the sixth, stranding two runners in scoring position. Kevin Hassett pitched two innings to earn the win. Matt Cuneo pitched the ninth for the save.
"It's something I'm used to at school. I'm the guy they go to in a situation like that," Carusotto said. "I'm used to being in the stretch, I'm not uncomfortable there, so it worked out for me."
The UMass Boston right-hander is credited with a hold. He lowered his ERA to 3.00 in three appearances.
This back-and-forth game was destined to come to down a battle of the bullpens, as neither starter could make it out of the fifth inning.
The Sharks scored three times off Suns' starter Austin Hansen in the first. Owens' two-run double was the big blow of the inning. After a scoreless second, a balk put Martha Vineyard's Dillon Nelson in position to score on a sacrifice fly in the third.
The Sharks added an unearned run in the fourth and Hansen was pulled after back-to-back walks to start the fifth. Hansen issued six walks.
Despite trailing early, Pittsfield's big bats in the heart of the lineup picked up the slack for its struggling starter. No. 3 hitter Al Zachary had an RBI double into center field in the first. He added another RBI double in nearly the same spot in the third. Clean-up hitter Hamilton followed with a sacrifice fly, plating Thomas Hughes. Justin Morhardt's RBI double tied the game at 4-4.
The Sharks took a 5-4 lead in the fourth, before the Suns responded again in their half of the inning. Hughes tied the game with an RBI single and Hamilton's record-breaking RBI single put the Suns up for good. Hamilton's final RBI came on a RBI double in the sixth.
Donati plated Tyler Lyne with a sacrifice fly for the Suns's final run. Donati went 3 for 4 with three runs scored and a stolen base. Hughes, Zachary and Lyne each had two hits.
"I got off to hot a start and it carried me through the middle of the season," Hamilton said of his historic season. "I slumped a little bit three-fourths of the way [through the season], but I had to get my head back on track and keep swinging the bat like I can."
Hamilton added that the RBI record was not something he imagined accomplishing, but he credited his appearance in the FCBL All-Star game with helping him finish strong down the stretch.
Despite the win, the Suns still face an uphill battle to make the playoffs as the postseason approaches. Pittsfield manager Tom Conley said three one-run losses last week hurt, but his team will continue playing hard until its final game.
"Our record doesn't indicate the way we've played," Conley said. "This team has battled. Whether we're down a lot going into the ninth or the whole way.
"That [win] was good to see. Especially after last week. Guys are putting in good efforts."
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252