Pittsfield National 8-10s hold on to beat Holden in Section 1 championship
PITTSFIELD — Evan Roberts, sitting in the Holden dugout, looked up in the sixth inning and said "This is really intense."
Out of the mouths of children.
That's because most of Pittsfield National's nine-run lead had evaporated in the bottom of the sixth inning in the Section 1 8-10 Little League championship game, and Holden had the winning run on second base.
But Brenden Socie struck out Cam Ferguson to pick up the save as Pittsfield National scored a 10-9 win over Holden. The win gives National the Section 1 title and a berth in this weekend's Massachusetts Little League Final Four in Salem.
"I think he saved me," Pittsfield manager Mark Socie, Brenden's father, said. "He absolutely saved me, that's for sure."
Mark Socie had to bring Brenden in from center field after making two trips to the mound in the sixth inning in order to talk to reliever Evan Roccabruna. Brenden Socie gave up a double to Hayden Braun that bounced off of third base, but came back to strike out Ferguson to end the game.
"It's always that one inning that comes back to haunt you. We've been preaching it since Day One," Mark Socie said. "Minimize the errors, play mistake-free baseball and we'll win games. Thankfully, we had a big enough lead today.
"For 5 1/3 innings, we played almost perfect baseball."
Pittsfield National lost the coin toss and was the designated visiting team. Ten Pittsfield hitters came to bat in the first, producing six runs on six hits. The big hits of the first inning were two-run singles by Cam Reynolds and Aiden Underdown.
"We didn't show up the way we typically do, from a defensive standpoint. We're a pretty good defensive team, but we didn't get to show it in the first inning," said Holden manager Bryan Moore. "It put us and our pitcher [Andrew Victor] in a tough spot, especially when we had the opportunity to get out of the inning a couple of times."
Holden was able to stem the tide because of reliever Matthew Moore, Bryan Moore's son.
The right-hander came on after the first two runners reached base in the second inning, and Matthew Moore then proceeded to retire the side. While Moore gave up three runs in 4 1/3 innings, only one was earned, and he struck out seven.
"That wasn't the plan to bring him in that early," Bryan Moore said. "I told him he threw 75 of the best pitches I ever saw him throw."
The other issue for the team from Central Massachusetts is that Pittsfield starter Jason Fields was outstanding. The right-hander had to leave in the sixth inning after throwing 76 pitches. He went five innings, holding Holden to one unearned run on six hits. He walked four and struck out three.
Pittsfield National had played sterling defense through five innings. Brenden Socie in center field threw one runner out at home, caught one between first and second and completed an inning-ending double play with a great throw to first.
That kind of changed in the sixth, as National committed four errors in the inning, which helped Holden get back into the game. Owen Stowe belted a two-run single to center, and consecutive errors made it 10-7.
"It was 10-7," said Mark Socie in response to a question about when he really got nervous. "I was like, 'OK, we're in trouble.' Then I looked at [coach Bryan Maloy] and said 'Why aren't you nervous?' He said 'Nah, we got this.' Then I made that rookie coaching mistake and had to replace Evan. It all worked out."
James Pollitt's RBI single made it 10-9 and Braun followed with a double off the bag against Brendan Socie. The tying run was on third and the winning run was on second. But Ferguson struck out and the celebration began.
Cade Demary led the Pittsfield National attack, going 3 for 4 with two runs batted in. Underdown was 2 for 2, batting out of the No. 9 spot, and he drove in three runs.
"We preach teamwork and heart," Mark Socie said. "It's all about having the most heart. Hopefully, we can take that to the next level."
Pittsfield National 602 101 — 10 11 5
Holden 100 008 — 9 11 2
Jason Fields (5), Evan Roccabruna (2/3), Brenden Socie (1/3) and Connor Paronto. Andrew Victor (1), Matthew Moore (4 1/3), Dallas Mall Jr. (2/3) and James Pollitt. W — Fields. L — Victor. Sv. — Socie. 2B H (Pollitt, Hayden Braun).
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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