PITTSFIELD — One thing is for certain, Thursday night’s loss at Wahconah Park was a very painful one for the Pittsfield Suns.
Giving up six runs in the top of the ninth will do that. The question, after dropping a 10-9 decision to Westfield and with the hottest team in the Futures League coming to Wahconah Park Friday night, is what’s next?
“You’ve got a Vermont team that’s won 14 out of 15 coming in here and we’ll see what kind of character we have by how we answer the bell after a loss like tonight,” Suns manager Matt Gedman said, “which honestly might be the worst loss I’ve had in four years here.”
Pittsfield Suns vs. Westfield Starfires
The Pittsfield Suns hosted the Westfield Starfires on Thursday night at Wahconah Park.
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It was Pittsfield’s first home game in Wahconah Park since July 6 due to rain. Because of that rain, an orange snow fence was put up in center field some six feet from the wall. The fence stretched from the manual scoreboard in left-center to the 403-foot mark in right-center. Any ball that landed inside that area was considered a ground-rule double.
The Suns led 8-1 through five and were three outs away from picking up a nice bounce-back win after Wednesday’s loss at New Britain. Instead of a win, the Suns were beaten because the Starfires — who never stopped grinding — parlayed four walks, a hit batter and three hits into a six-run inning that turned an almost certain defeat into a most improbable victory.
Pittsfield’s Grant Nicholson, the third of five Suns pitchers, had given up an unearned run in the eighth inning but struck out the side with two runners on. The ninth inning was a completely different story.
Jack Thorbahn came on to throw the final inning in what looked to be a chance to work out some kinks on the mound. In stead, he walked Dan Hussey, Jayden Brown and Cam Meyer to load the bases. A walk to Cam McIntosh forced in Hussey with a run to make it 9-5. Thorbahn, who threw only three strikes in 19 pitches, was done and closer Ryan Langford came in.
Langford immediately hit Peter DeMaria, forcing in a run. Langford did regroup, striking out Hunter Pasqualini looking and Dougie de la Cruz swinging. With Cody Bey at the plate, Pittsfield catcher Jackson Appel was charged with a passed ball, scoring Meyer to make it 9-7. Then Bey hit one beyond the snow fence in center for a ground-rule double. Two runs scored and the game was tied.
Henry Martinez was the next batter and he hit a sinking liner to center. Jake Blinstrub dove for the ball but couldn’t come up with it, and Bey came home with the go-ahead run.
“You can’t walk the first four guys and hit the fifth guy,” Gedman said. “That’s the only way they come back and tie the game, if you give them free bases. That’s what we did.”
Despite the disaster that was the top of the ninth, the Suns did not go quietly.
Leadoff batter Jake Blinstrub, who went 2 for 4 with three runs scored and an RBI, battled Westfield closer Andrew Roman for 12 pitches. On the 13th, Blinstrub got a little bit under the ball and flied to Martinez right in front of the orange fencing. But Roman walked Tyler Cox on a 3-2 pitch and Cole Wojtkowski on four pitches, putting the winning run on first. Joel Lara then hit a sinking liner toward the hole at short. Meyer made a shoetop grab and, since the runners had gone, easily doubled up Cox to end the game.
The wheels-coming-off performance overshadowed Javier Rosales’ second-inning grand slam and a solid pitching performance by starter Jack Mullen.
The right hander from Bowdoin had given up two earned runs in three of his last four starts. Thursday, he surrendered three unearned runs in 5 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out three.
“He’s been one of the best starters for us. This might have been the best I’ve seen him,” said Gedman. “We’ve done it twice to him, where he goes five or six and that kid deserves better in terms of the win-loss column. He’s not afraid to throw the change-up whether it’s a righty or a lefty. He had good location, mixed his pitches and keeps hitters guessing.”
Westfield 010 002 016 — 10 10 1
Pittsfield 140 030 100 — 9 13 4
Dunn 4 1/3, Cotter 2 2/3, Dubord 1, Roman 1 and Garbowski, de la Cruz. Mullen 5 2/3, Quigley 1 1/3, Nicholson 1, Thorbahn 0, Langford 1 and Appel. W — Dubord (1-0). L — Langford (0-1). Sv. — Roman (6). 2B — W: Bey. P: Werchan. HR — P: Rosales (4). LOB — W 11. P 10. T — 3:29. A — 597.