Pittsfield baseball falls to East Longmeadow in Western Mass. Division I semifinals

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GILLIAN JONES — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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AMHERST — The last two times the Pittsfield baseball team made it to the Western Massachusetts Division I tournament, its run ended in the semifinal round. It happened again on Monday.

The second-seeded Generals fell behind early to No. 3 East Longmeadow, left 11 runners on base and had runners in scoring position in six of the seven innings as PHS dropped a 5-2 decision at Earl Lorden Field on the campus at the University of Massachusetts.

"We've kind of had some bad luck at this field," PHS coach Seamus Morrison said. "They made some great plays out there. We hit the ball hard. Sometimes they don't fall. That's what goes on.

"We'll turn the page and try again next year."

The Generals were seeking their first Division I championship since 2004, and had reached the semifinals in 2016 and 2018, but could not get past that game.

Pittsfield (19-3) started slower than Morrison or his players would have liked, as the Spartans scored the game's first five runs. It was a far cry from when these two teams met back on May 29, when three PHS pitchers combined on a two-hit shutout in a 7-0 win over the Spartans. Pittsfield had 13 hits in that game.

"The biggest difference was we came out and played our game," East Longmeadow coach Craig DiFranco said. "To be honest with you, we played a good game up against them the last time. They just handed us very easily. Our senior Joe Baxter came out and pitched the best game I've seen him pitch in four years, and we took care of business."

Baxter, who did not get out of the third inning in the last game, walked a tightrope all afternoon. But when he needed to make a pitch, he did. When he needed some help defensively, he got it — particularly from center fielder Hunter Mazza.

"It's really frustrating. We had a lot of well-hit balls, they just didn't fall," PHS right fielder Jon Halse said. "It's just baseball."

Mazza made several outstanding catches, robbing Hunter Potash and Ryan LaPierre of extra bases. Mazza actually made two outstanding catches against LaPierre. The first came with Potash on second and two outs in the fifth, as Mazza made a running grab in center field for the third out. Had the ball fallen in, it would have been 5-3. The second time came in the seventh. Potash hit a one-out single, and LaPierre followed with a sinking liner to right center. Mazza made a long run and a diving grab. Had the ball gotten past him, it would have scored one run, possibly two.

"We hit some hard balls and they made some plays. You tip your cap to them," said Morrison.

The Spartans (16-8) got to PHS starter Ian Benoit for single runs in the second and the third. Frankie Fiorentino led off with an infield single and came around to score on a single by Tim Krol that got by center fielder Carter Matthews. Then in the third, consecutive singles by Mazza, Fiorentino and Krol made it 2-0.

The real damage came in the fourth inning, when PHS gave up three runs on two hits. Mike Moynihan hit an RBI double, Chad Lavelle hit a sacrifice fly and Moynihan scored from third on a Benoit wild pitch, making it 5-0.

Pittsfield did not go down without a fight, as the Generals scored a pair of runs in the fourth.

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Halse got a one-out walk from Baxter, went to second when Jaden Coscia was hit by a pitch and scored on Zach Zerbato's base hit. The next batter, Joe Cracolici, grounded to short where Lavelle threw to Moynihan to force Zerbato. The throw to first was late and wild, and Coscia scored. Matthews popped out to end the inning.

Pittsfield had a chance to get back in the game in the fifth inning, when some bad luck struck. Joe Traversa, who finished his PHS career by going 2 for 4, hit a solid single to right. Traversa ran on a 3-2 pitch, Benoit looked at strike three and it appeared Traversa had stolen second. It was, however, ruled that Benoit got in the way of Fiorentino and the interference call led to a double play. Had Traversa ended up on second, he would have scored when Potash doubled down the left field line. Instead, pinch runner Luke Melle was straneded at second when Mazza robbed LaPierre the first time.

PHS relievers Potash and LaPierre held East Longmeadow scoreless the rest of the way. The Generals, however, could not get any more runs on the board.

Potash and Zerbato, two seniors, both finished with two hits for PHS, who had eight hits off of Baxter. Baxter struck out six and walked two.

Three different East Longmeadow hitters had two hits each.

"It's been a great year," said Morrison. "We lost one game here at the end, but it doesn't write the whole story of our season. I have a lot of respect for these seniors, and I'm proud of them no matter what the outcome was today."

Of the 10 players who took the field on Monday, only LaPierre and left fielder Lucien Lamoureaux return next year.

"It stinks," LaPierre said. "We worked really hard for this. We just have to remember how we feel now, and take it into next year.

"We don't want to feel this way again."

———

East Longmeadow     011     300     0     —     5     9     1

Pittsfield     000     200     0     —     2     8     1

Joe Baxter and Frankine Fiorentino. Ian Benoit (4), Hunter Potash (2), Ryan LaPierre (1) and Zach Zerbato. W — Baxter. L — Benoit. 2B — EL (Mike Moynihan). P (Benoit, Potash).

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


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