Rally in last inning keeps Force alive in Commissioner's Cup
Photo Gallery | Berkshire Force loses to Rochester
PITTSFIELD - Thirty-one innings into the Longest Day of softball, the coaches and players on the Berkshire Force were exhausted.
Force reliever Julia Murphy gave up two runs in the top of the seventh and the Force was facing a one-run deficit. Ten minutes later, Kayla Kowalczyk helped the Force win and advance in the Commissioner's Cup competition at the Babe Ruth 16-U World Series. Tired? Forget about that.
Kowalczyk's bases-loaded squeeze bunt scored Allie Hunt from third easily and Ashley Keegan roared around from second base to score the winning run as the Force beat Waretown, N.J. 7-6 Sunday night at the Doyle Complex.
"We were absolutely exhausted. Starting at 7:30 this morning and going until now," said Keegan. "But once we got going, we knew we couldn't stop."
The Force will play this morning at 8:30 against the winner of Sunday's late Commissioner's Cup game between West Volusia, Fla., and Hoquiam, Wash.
"I don't know where they're getting energy from," Force manager Jim Clary said. "I am tired."
Sunday's long road began with a 7-2 loss to St. Charles Parish, La., that knocked the Force out of the World Series championship bracket and into the Commissioner's Cup bracket. The Force then dropped a 6-3, 10-inning decision to Rochester, N.H., before beating Del Rio, Texas 8-3.
Trailing early on in the late game, the Force rallied for three runs in the fifth inning to take a 5-4 lead. A bunt single by Julia Murphy, with the runners in gear, brought Erin Murphy and Allie Hunt home for the lead.
Emily Koldys started for the Force but went two-thirds of an inning. Julia Murphy pitched 2 1/3 innings before giving way to Keegan. But Murphy came back in the seventh, three outs from a rare save.
Murphy loaded the bases and gave up the tying run on an infield single by Gabby D'Amato. D'Amato was 5 for 5 in the game. A pitch hit the next batter, Chloe Moyer, and that forced Cheyanne Nastase in from third with the go-ahead run.
With one out in the home seventh, Hunt blasted a 2-2 pitch about three feet from the fence in left for a triple. Manager Darren Mooney had Nastasi walk both Keegan and Julia Murphy. Up came Kowalczyk, who dropped the safety squeeze down. Hunt scored and when Nastase's throw eluded catcher Francesca Aimone, Keegan scored the winning run.
"I kind of had a feeling that he was going to have me bunt, because of the situation we were in," Kowalczyk said. "He knew I could get it down, so I knew he might give me the sign."
Once the ball got to the fence, Keegan wasn't stopping. Even if Clary put up the stop sign, which he didn't, Keegan might not have seen it.
"I never even looked at him," said Keegan. "I saw the ball as past [the catcher], and I went."
The 10-inning loss to New England champion Rochester, N.H., dropped the Force into the Cup's elimination bracket, and forced the home team to take the long way home.
After beating Del Rio, the future for Waretown and the Force came down to the final inning.
Murphy got into a first-inning jam against Del Rio as Christiana Saenz singled and Tina Montejaro reached on an error as she tried to sacrifice. The next batter, Daniela Quiroz, bunted her way into a double play with catcher Hayley Tobin putting the tag on Saenz for the second out. Then Nadia Esquivel grounded to Kowalczyk to end the inning.
The Force parlayed two hits and an error into a first-inning run that gave them the lead for keeps. With one out, Tobin hit a fly ball to left that popped out of Giselle Garcia glove and Tobin ended up on second. Hunt's single to left brought Tobin home for the 1-0 lead.
While Murphy was retiring eight straight Del Rio hitters, the Force was giving her enough run support.
The Force scored twice in the second and once in the third. In the second, Erin Murphy and Kailey Bell both singled and after Bell stole second, they both came home on Julia Murphy's two-run single. In the third, a Clarissa Alarcon pitch hit Jillian Campbell, forcing Ashley Keegan home with the fourth run.
The team from Texas sent seven batters to the plate in the fourth inning against Murphy, scoring three runs on four hits and two errors. Jazmine Valdez belted an RBI double to left and Alarcon helped her cause with a single to center.
Berkshire erupted for four runs in the bottom of the sixth, giving Julia Murphy a comfortable margin. She helped her cause with an RBI double and came home on Hunt's two-run homer -- her fourth inside-the-park homer of the tournament.
After losing to St. Charles Parish, La., in the morning's first game, the Force came on to play Rochester, N.H., in a game that sent the loser into the Commissioner's Cup double-elimination tournament.
The Force took a 2-0 lead, saw Rochester tie the game in the fourth and take the lead on Catie Langdon's RBI triple in the top of the sixth. But Hunt tied the game in the home sixth on a single that scored Erin Murphy from second.
A scoreless seventh inning sent the game into extra frames and neither team scored in the eighth. In the ninth, the Force had a good chance to end the game in walk-off fashion. Hunt reached on a bunt single to open the inning. She stole second and went to third as the throw by catcher Mackenzie Diaz sailed into center field. Hunt was sent home and was out on a bang-bang play after a good throw by Langdon.
Langdon had the big bat for Rochester, going 2 for 5 with a pair of triples and three RBI.
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