Pittsfield 13s rally to beat Hawaii, move to 2-0 at Babe Ruth World Series
WESTFIELD — Since the Babe Ruth World Series began, coach Paul Brindle has echoed that the Pittsfield 13s are going to show up to every game with strong pitching and great defense. Both of those things were on display on Saturday, as Pittsfield defeated Hawaii Kai, 3-2, to improve to 2-0 in pool play.
"As long as we are in this tournament you're going to see us play defense and pitch," Brindle said.
From the hidden ball trick, to double plays and diving catches, combined with a strong outing from Christian Salzarulo on the mound, Pittsfield pulled out with the win.
Caleb Kim started the top of the first inning with a single and quickly stole second base to give Hawaii a scoring threat. With one down in the frame, Mana Lou Kong sent an opposite-field hit through the infield to plate Kim and give the Southwest Regional representative an early 1-0 lead.
Salzarulo quickly settled in and struck out two of the next three batters he faced to retire the side.
"I was feeling pretty good out there," Salzarulo said. "I was confident with my defense and the goal was to just throw strikes."
After a single in the top of the second from Kim, Salzarulo could do no wrong. He finished the afternoon by going six-plus innings and did not allow a hit after the second, while striking out four and walking five.
Taylin Oana walked to begin the fourth inning and moved to second on a ground out. With two outs, Pittsfield leaned on some trickery as Nick Brindle performed the hidden ball trick at second base and quickly tagged Oana, who was getting his lead, to retire the side.
"My son plays second base and he does it all on his own," Paul Brindle said. "It had worked five times this year and it is all him with his instincts."
With Pittsfield fired up after the successful play, the momentum started to swing in their favor. Evan Blake capitalized by starting the bottom half of the frame by launching a ball to deep center field, good for a double. A passed ball got Blake, the game's tying run, 90-feet away from scoring.
Pittsfield again tried to catch Hawaii sleeping as Blake broke for home and was called safe in a cloud of dust. After rising to his feet to a roar of the crowd, the umpire reversed his decision and called Blake out at the plate, keeping Pittsfield off the board.
"We set that up a lot and make teams linger," Paul Brindle explained. "It has worked three of four times this year and its a boost to get us going."
After such a drastic change of events, Pittsfield players could've lost their confidence — but that wasn't the case.
"I just kept telling them that it was a one-run game," Paul Brindle said. "We reminded Christian that he was doing a phenomenal job and that the game would come down to the six and seventh innings."
With one out in the top of the sixth inning, Oana reached base on a single as Hawaii looked to build on their one-run lead. Pinch hitter Chandler Murray stepped into the box and sent a ball to Nick Brindle. He tossed the ball to Blake, who tapped second while avoiding the runner, before firing to first for the inning ending 4-6-3 double play.
With Pittsfield again taking some of the momentum, their time to strike came in the bottom of the sixth inning. Walker Abdallah walked to start the frame before Nick Brindle sent a dribbler down the third base line. Hawaii's pitcher was unable to control the ball as Brindle's speed landed him at first base. Salzarulo then was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.
"Our confidence level went a little down after the call at home," Salzarulo said. "After we got bases loaded with no outs brought that energy way up. It is crazy to be a part of."
Blake stepped into the box and worked a walk of his own to plate Ben Jacob, who was pinch running for Abdallah.
Catcher Antonio Scalise followed with a sacrifice fly that plated Nick Brindle to break the tie. Salzarulo later scored on a passed ball to give Pittsfield an insurance run, ending the inning with a 3-1 lead.
Much like game one of the World Series, Brayden Gutzmer was called on to close the game out on the mound for Pittsfield.
"I love being in those tight situations." Gutzmer said. "I didn't know what would happen, it is exciting."
After a strikeout for the inning's first out, Lau Kong stepped into the box with an opportunity to give Hawaii life as the bases were loaded. He jumped on the first pitch he saw, sending it to deep left field, but Cam Sime was there for the out. While a run did score, Pittsfield hung on to a one-run lead. Hawaii's Ala'i Williams stepped up with two runners on and two outs.
Gutzmer got two-quick strikes before Williams popped up a pitch that held up just long enough for Tommy Mullin to go all-out with a diving attempt.
"I knew someone would catch," Gutzmer said. "I trust our defense."
The Pittsfield defense hadn't made an error for 13 straight innings, and when Mullin secured the ball with the acrobatic catch — the streak was up to 14 innings. More importantly, Pittsfield improved to 2-0 in pool play with the come-from-behind win.
"They're used to winning and they want to win," Paul Brindle said. "We just played a great team that has experience with a lot of winning and they're used to winning. It was a great battle."
Pittsfield plays its third of four pool-play games Sunday against Pacific Northwest representative Spokane, Wash. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Bullens Field.
"I feel like we have a chance to win a lot of games here," Gutzmer said. "We are pretty confident in the tight situations."
Hawaii 100 000 1 — 2 4 1
Pittsfield 000 003 x — 3 2 0
Ka'olu Holt (2 1/3), Caleb Okada (2 2/3), Mana Lou Kong (1) and Tanner Pangan. Christian Salzarulo (6 +), Brayden Gutzmer (1), and Antonio Scalise. W — Salcarulo. L — Okada. 2B — P 1 (Evan Blake).
Jake Mendel can be reached at Jmendel@berkshireeagle.com, @Jmendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.