Pittsfield 13s finish Babe Ruth World Series pool play at 2-2

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CAROLINE BONNIVIER SNYDER – THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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WESTFIELD — Looking at the glass as half-full rather than half-empty, the Pittsfield 13-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars knew that whatever happened on Monday would not keep them out of bracket play that starts Tuesday.

"We are automatically through," Pittsfield manager Paul Brindle said, moments after his team dropped a 4-3 decision to Northwest Regional champion Spokane, Wash., Monday afternoon at Bullens Field. "We've given up the least amount of runs of anybody."

The other thing that needs to be known about the Pittsfield All-Stars, and it's probably the more important thing, is that what happened on Monday doesn't matter any more.

"For us, it's always a 0-0 game no matter what inning it's in," Pittsfield catcher Antonio Scalise said, "so we just try and shut the past games out and look to the future."

With Greenville (N.C.) beating Centre County (Pa.) in the third game of the day, Pittsfield slipped into second place in the National Division.

When bracket play begins, Pittsfield will play either host Westfield or Ohio Valley Regional champion Jonesville, Wisc. They were playing in the final game of the night. The game will be played at 9 a.m., at Bullens Field, due to forecast rain for later in the day. Both of Tuesday's games will be played at 9, and the other game will be played at Westfield State.

By virtue of its 9-1 win over Centre County, Greenville is the National Division champion with a 3-1 record, while Fargo (N.D.) is the American Division champ, finishing 4-0 after beating Meridian (Miss.) 13-5. Both Greenville and Fargo will get Tuesday off, and play Wednesday against the first-round winners.

If Pittsfield wins its first bracket-play game, it would play Fargo on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.

The good news for Pittsfield was that Brindle's team put up a crooked number for only the second time in four games. They scored three runs on three hits and two Spokane errors in the second inning. But after that, the New England champions were kept off the board.

"We had that one big inning when we put that three-spot up. We had a few hard hits in a row, and then we just couldn't get anything together," Brindle said.

Part of the reason Pittsfield didn't get anything together after that second inning was the work of Nate Fitzpatrick on the mound. The left-hander held Pittsfield two two hits over the final five innings, retired nine in a row at one point and set down 13 of the final 14 batters he faced. In an 86-pitch, complete-game effort, Fitzpatrick struck out five and did not walk a batter. In fact, he had only one 3-2 count in the entire game.

"We knew we had a horse on the mound. Nate Fitzpatrick has been very key for us. He got us to this point," said Spokane manager Eric Sandberg. "In his last four outings ... I think he's given up one or two earned runs in his [previous] four outings. The kid stands on the mound, throws the ball downhill."

Fitzpatrick's only rough inning came in the top of the second when Pittsfield scored those three runs.

Keegan Crouse, Owen Salvatore and Damon Pause hit consecutive singles to load the bases with no outs. Cam Sime hit a shallow fly ball to center that dropped in front of centerfielder Henry Sandberg. Unfortunately for Brindle's baserunners, they kind of had to hold up to see if the ball would be caught. It wasn't and Crouse scored. The base hit was wiped out of the book because Pause was thrown out at second.

Then, Brindle played a little small ball with Salvatore scoring on the back end of a double steal. Sime came home from third when Tommy Mullin placed a perfect squeeze bunt, and Mullin reached on a throwing error by Fitzpatrick. The lefty gathered himself, struck out Ben Jacob and got Nick Brindle on a fly ball to right, ending the threat.

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"We like starting little things like that, it gets the team going," said Scalise, who had a single and a double. "Tommy laying down that beautiful bunt brings in a run, it just kind of confuses the other team."

Evan Blake, making his second start of the tournament, took the hill in the home second with a 3-1 lead, and it didn't take very long for Spokane to even things up.

Fitzpatrick led off with a single, went to third on Zach McMurtrey's double and scored when Henry Sandberg hit a slow roller in front of the plate. Then Drew Rayment hit a ball that first baseman Mullin couldn't field, and McMurtrey came home with the tying run.

"We talk a lot about when you get punched in the mouth, how are you going to respond?" Eric Sandberg said. "These kids, throughout the season, have never been out of any games. We've always told them if we have a guy up in the bottom half, we always have a chance."

Some heads-up base running led to the go-ahead run in the fourth.

With one out, Henry Sandberg beat out an infield single. Then Rayment singled to left-center. Sandberg saw the ball all the way rounding second and took off for third. A throwing error allowed Sandberg to score the final run. Spokane had a runner on third and a chance to get an insurance run, but Avrey Cherry hit a one-hopper to second baseman Nick Brindle, who was playing in, and Brindle gunned the throw to Scalise for the tag play.

Blake was more than solid the rest of the way, allowing only one base runner over the final two innings, with Tanner Smith reaching on a sixth-inning error.

Pittsfield's last, best chance to score came in the sixth. Fitzpatrick retired Christian Salzarulo and Blake to open the inning. Scalise ripped a double past right fielder Rayment, and Walker Abdallah pinch ran. But Keegan Crouse hit the first pitch back to the mound, and Fitzpatrick threw to first, ending the threat and the inning.

Paul Brindle said his team will need to hit more to get to the second round in the bracket.

"We've been telling them to be more aggressive" at the plate, the manager said. "We were maybe a little bit too aggressive, swinging at first pitches, swinging at pitches that aren't theirs, and that kind of played into [Spokane's] hands."

———

Pittsfield     030     000     0     —     3     5     3

Spokane     120     100     x     —     4     7     3

Evan Blake and Antonio Scalise. Nate Fitzpatrick and Easton O'Neal. W — Fitzpatrick. L — Blake. 2B — P: Scalise. S: Zach McMurtrey.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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