PITTSFIELD — Slow start, fast finish.
For only the third time this year — and the second time in a week — the Taconic baseball team found itself down midway through a game. The Thunder then rallied for seven runs over the final three innings and pulled away from Pope Francis 7-3 Saturday at the high school. The win was Taconic’s 13th straight.
“They’re a quality program, so we knew we were going to be in for a fight. Obviously, it was like the first game, when we beat them 1-0,” Taconic coach Kevin Stannard said. “They took the 3-0 lead and we were kind of comatose for those first three innings.”
The Thunder fell behind on a 3-run home run by Pope Francis designated hitter Drew Bolduc in the top of the third inning. He hit a 2-2 offering from Taconic starter Adam Lazits over the fence to the left of the Taconic banner in center field. It was a shot that had the players in green and gold shaking their heads. Bolduc was 2 for 3 for the Cardinals.
Taconic had a chance to get some of that back in the home third inning, but couldn’t bring in anyone, even with runners on second and third with one out.
The momentum began shifting in the top of the fourth. Lazits retired the first two hitters but walked Bobby Triglio. The next batter was Ryan Vedovelli and he blasted a 1-1 pitch to center. Center fielder Bo Bramer had his eye on the ball, reached over the fence, and made the catch to end the inning and keep Taconic three runs down.
“I knew it was at the fence if not over the fence, so I got to the fence as fast as I could,” Bramer said. “I felt it, and luckily I didn’t have to jump or anything. I could reach up and catch it.”
Instead of a five-run deficit, the Thunder were still down 3-0.
“It was a momentum-turner,” said Stannard. “Anything that’s hit out to center field, I think Bo has a chance to catch it. If there wasn’t a fence there, there wouldn’t be any balls that drop in.”
Lazits led the home fourth off with a single to center, took second on a wild pitch by Pope Francis starter Damian Mantzios, and scored on Antonio Scalise’s double to left-center. After Matt Lee struck out, Michael Britten singled to right, scoring Scalise. An infield single by Christian Salzarulo led to Bramer hitting a sky-high pop up down the right field line. The ball fell in between first baseman Johnny Gosselin, second baseman Cam Vedovelli and right fielder Ryan Rhodes. Britten came around to score and the game was tied.
Lazits took the mound in the fifth and retired the side in order. In the home fifth, Taconic took the lead for keeps.
The starting pitcher reached on an error by the second baseman and ended up on second. Lazits was pinch-run for by Jake Hall. Scalise popped to first, Lee walked on four pitches, and then Britten singled between short and third, bringing Hall home with the eventual winning run.
“I need a hit, it’s as simple as that,” said Britten, when asked about that at-bat. “There wasn’t much more to it.”
Taconic broke the game open in the sixth with three runs on four hits. Sam Sherman hit an RBI triple and scored on Nick Guachione’s single. Guachione later scored on a base hit by Kaden Codey.
The rally was helped by the eventual five quality innings Lazits threw. The right hander held the Cardinals to four hits and two walks, while striking out six. He did exactly what Stannard and his coaching staff needed him to do.
“He threw five great innings. He made the one mistake,” said the Taconic coach. “After that, he was lights out. Then Matty came in and did his job.”
With the lead, Stannard called on Lee to close the game out. The right-hander faced eight batters in two innings. He gave up a sixth-inning walk and a seventh-inning leadoff double by Brady Balint. All six of the outs were by strikeout, and he got the final two hitters of the game looking.
“You come up here, you play a quality game and that’s a really good team, and we didn’t get it today,” Pope Francis coach Dan Fenton said. “Our pitcher did a really good job of putting balls in the zone. He was unable to throw his offspeed for strikes. They started to get on his fastball quite a bit.”
That’s two wins in two days for Taconic, which was scheduled to play Northampton Sunday morning. The Thunder are set to play Pittsfield at home on Monday and then host Westfield on Tuesday. The Bombers are the only team to hand Taconic a loss this year.
Francis 003 000 0 — 3 5 1
Taconic 000 313 x — 7 1 1 1
Damian Mantzios 5, Jack Wassung 2/3, Johnny Gosselin 1/3 and Bobby Trigilio. Adam Lazits 5, Matt Lee 2 and Antonio Scalise. W — Lazits. L — Mantzios. Sv. — Lee. 2B — PF: Cam Vedovelli Brady Balint. T: Scalise, Sam Sherman, Bo Bramer. 3B — T: Sherman. HR — PF: Drew Bolduc.