Holden 9-11 Little Leaguers force decisive 'if' game vs. Pittsfield American for Section 1 crown
PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield American 11s played a strong game, led by pitcher Cam Hillard, but Holden was just a little bit better as the visitors squeaked out a 1-0 win at Deming Park on Monday in the first game of the 10-12 Section 1 championship series.
Pittsfield won the first match 6-2 on Saturday during elimination, which means the sectional championship today in Worcester will be a rubber match of sorts.
The Pittsfield bats hit the ball all afternoon, however, Brady Hughes and the Holden defense played a perfect game in the field to keep the Americans off the board.
Hughes didn't record a strikeout until the fourth inning, but the defense turned double plays in both the second and third innings to prevent the Americans from gaining from any momentum.
"They made the plays," American coach Joe Skutnik explained. "We hit the ball, maybe next game they will fall."
Hillard and the Pittsfield defense were almost as impressive and it started in the first inning.
Holden Second basemen Ryan Flaherty, who was 2 for 3 on the afternoon, reached base to give his team runners at second and third with one out. Cleanup hitter Zach Hoadley slapped a ball to short where Matt Egan made the heads-up play to throw home, where catcher Christian Barry applied the tag for second out of the inning. Hillard retired the side with a strikeout and went on a roll by striking out three-straight batters as the game remained scoreless at the end of two innings.
"He can throw strikes and that is why we threw him today," Skutnik said. "He hit his spots and we knew we would have to play defense because [Holden] can hit the ball and we played defense for just about the whole game."
The Pittsfield ace ran into a couple jams throughout the evening, but continued to remain focused.
"[The goal] was to come out firing," Hillard said. "I just worried about pitching and nothing else. I act like I don't hear [the crowd noise and chants]."
Hillard and the Pittsfield defense retired the first two batters to start the bottom of the third inning, but that is when the Holden hitters put on a two-out rally. Flaherty and Hoadley each singled before Ben Keevan reached on an error that plated Flaherty for the game's only run.
It was smooth sailing the rest of the way for Hillard as he didn't allow a base runner to advance past first base over the game's final two innings and finished the afternoon with four strikeouts, no walks and no earned runs on five base hits.
The Pittsfield bats continued to hit the ball hard, except the Holden defense was there every time to make the play. Hughes finished his night with two strikeouts on four hits while walking none in the hard-earned win.
"[The message after the game] was that there are a bunch of highs and lows," Skutnik said. "[Pittsfield] played a great game and came out on the short end of it, but they didn't lose the sectional championship.
"They have another shot at it tomorrow, so we will take a ride down to Worcester and see how we do."
Pittsfield 000 000 — 0 4 2
Holden 001 00x — 1 5 0
Cam Hillard and Christian Barry. Brady Hughes and Bryan Herlihy. W — Hughes. L — Hillard.
Jake Mendel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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