Pittsfield Post 68 perseveres, rallies past Monson in American Legion Western Mass. tournament opener

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WILBRAHAM — In the bottom of the fourth inning Thursday night at Spec Pond, Joe Woronick was hit by a pitch and came around to score on Cal Messina's infield single.

The run only cut Pittsfield's deficit to three, but as Woronick bent over to put his catcher's gear back on, he mouthed to no one in particular, "We got this."

An inning later, Post 68's No. 9 hitter followed through on that promise to himself, doubling in two runs to tie the game with Monson.

However, it wasn't until nearly a full hour later that things were ultimately decided in the American Legion Western Massachusetts tournament opener.

Pittsfield, the No. 1 seed, came all the way back to defeat Monson 7-6 on a ninth-inning walk-off single by Ian Benoit in a late-night contest on the road.

FINAL in 10: Pittsfield 7, Monson 6.

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The 8 p.m. start in Wilbraham ended just before 11 at night as both sides hung three consecutive innings of zeroes before Post 241 reliever Adam Przybycien ran into trouble in the ninth.

After striking out Messina to open the frame, Joe Traversa smacked a line drive off the glove of Monson's leaping second baseman. Traversa, who singled and doubled in a run earlier in the game, stole second base, which led to an intentional walk for cleanup man Hunter Potash. At head coach Pat Bassi's beckoning, Traversa swiped third as well. Post 241 manager Heath Blackburn countered by offering Joe Cracolici a free pass to first base, loading them up for Benoit and likely taking away the bunt option for Bassi.

Przybycien and Benoit then staged their own one-on-one war. Benoit fouled off four consecutive pitches with a 2-2 count, and then drew ball three to force Przybycien into a jam with nowhere to put him.

"He's a very good pitcher, high velocity. I knew I'd be seeing some strikes because they walked to two guys before me. That had me a little pumped up," said Benoit. "I was just trying to get it in play, get it to the outfield. I knew would get in no matter what."

Benoit sent a potential sacrifice fly to right field, which was lost in the lights and landed behind the right fielder. That allowed Traversa to score with ease, pivot on a dime and join the mob emerging from the home dugout as Post 68 chased down Benoit for an infield pile.

"They persevered," said Bassi. "Ian's at bat was one of the best at bats I've seen in a long time. That kid throws really well, and Ian just did what he had to do."

The heroes were plentiful for Pittsfield Thursday night, and each and every one of them was needed as Post 68 got behind 6-2 by virtue of some uncharacteristic fielding issues. Benoit did it both ways, coming on to pitch 4 and 1/3 innings of relief, allowing one run and striking out four. Potash took over after Ryan Nodell singled with one out in the eighth. Nodell reached third with the go-ahead run, but Potash froze Monson's No. 2 hitter, Dillon Slattery, with a two-strike breaking ball to end the threat. Potash tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the win, but owes some credit to Traversa, whose big arm at shortstop saved multiple base hits, including on a grounder deep in the hole during that final Monson at bat.

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Henry Sniezek came off the bench to fill in when Benoit moved from second base to the mound, relieving starter Carter Matthews with two on and nobody out. A sharp grounder greeted Sniezek, and he threw out Nodell at home for the fielder's choice. Devin Slattery did follow with a two-run double, his second of the night, which put Post 241 in front 6-2.

"I was confident in all my guys. I knew once we got it going we'd be fine. I knew they had my back," said Benoit. "For me, that's only one hit. We use the term 'flush,' so you flush it out, get the next pitch."

Pittsfield got out of the inning two batters later, and grabbed momentum back in the bottom half when Messina trucked out an infield single to score Woronick with two outs. Traversa followed with a RBI double to make it 6-4. Benoit blanked Monson in the top of the fifth, and Post 68 came back with another two-out rally.

Danny DiMassimo, who doubled in a run in the second, reached on a fielder's choice for the second out, but Sniezek refused to let the inning end with a single to shallow right that stretched to a double when DiMassimo beat the throw to third.

Woronick then came out swinging.

"I always sit first pitch fastball, and pretty sure I got that," said Woronick. "Got it and it carried."

The double carried over the left fielder's head, and carried Post 68's momentum right back out into the field.

"They're a real good group of ballplayers, I have a lot of confidence in them and they have confidence in themselves," said Bassi. "I mean, when you're in a 6-2 hole and it seems like everything is going against you, it feels like the wheels are going to fall off."

Top-seeded Post 68 continues on in the winner's bracket with a game Friday at 8 p.m. against No. 4 Northampton at Legion Field in Palmer. Northampton was a 5-0 winner over fifth-seeded Agawam on Wednesday.

———

Monson     202     200     000     —     6     9     5

Pittsfield     011     220     001     —     7     9     3

One out when winning run scored.

Keith Smith (3 2/3), Adam Przybycien (1/3), James Berthiaume (1), Ryan Nodell (2), Przybycien (1 1/3) and Travis Orszulak. Carter Matthews (3+), Ian Benoit (4 1/3), Hunter Potash (1 2/3) and Joe Woronick. W — Potash. L — Przybycien. 2B — M (Devin Slattery 2); P (Danny DiMassimo, Joe Traversa, Woronick).

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.


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