WORCESTER, Mass. -- For two years, the Taconic baseball team has been unquestionably the best in Western Massachusetts.
But on Saturday, it had no answers for Austin Prep’s Cameron Seguin.
The junior southpaw struck out 10 and allowed just two hits in leading his team to a 9-1 win over Taconic in the Division 3 State Championship game at Fitton Field.
Taconic (20-5) was making its second straight trip to the state final after winning it all in Division 1 a year ago.
This time around, coach Kevin Stannard’s team was done in by one bad inning in the field and one long afternoon at the plate against Seguin.
“Obviously, you can’t have just three baserunners against a team that solid,” Stannard said. “I thought we were overmatched. You would have thought Clayton Kershaw was out there today with our approach at the plate.
“You could tell we start four freshmen against an older group of kids. And I think we were overmatched a lot of the times.”
Nevertheless, senior pitcher Cedric Rose held Austin Prep (23-2) at bay for three innings, stranding four men in the process and keeping Taconic in the game.
And it led the game after rallying for a run in the top of the fourth.
Rose got his team’s first hit against Seguin, a t two-out double down the line in left. Freshman Brendan Stannard followed with a single to the left side to score Rose and give the Western Mass champs a 1-0 lead.
It did not last for long.
Austin Prep rallied for seven runs in the bottom of the fourth -- taking advantage of two Taconic errors and knocking Rose (3-⅔ innings, two earned runs) out of the game in the process.
Freshman Anton Lazits moved over from shortstop to stop the bleeding, but the six-run cushion was more than Seguin needed.
He allowed just one more baserunner the rest of the way, a leadoff walk in the top of the fifth. He retired the next nine men he faced -- five by strikeout.
Austin Prep added a run in the fifth and one more in the sixth, on a towering homer to left by Logan Bravo, to finish the scoring.
For Taconic, it ended an 11-game winning streak and a two-year run that saw the Pittsfield school win a state title with a senior-laden group one year and get back to the season’s last day a year later with almost an entirely new cast of characters.
“For us to get here with this group, it’s a credit to them,” Stannard said. “It hurts right now. It will sting for a while, but once they look back, they’ll say, ‘Wow, we went 20-5. We made it to the state finals again.’
“It can only help us as a program going forward. To go back-to-back to the state finals. Four freshmen in the starting lineup today, a sophomore [Dylan Burke] catching. The future is bright. It depends on how hard to they want to work in their offseason and get ready for next year. … If they decide they like this feeling and want to get back to this point, they’ll work hard in the offseason and, hopefully, we’ll have the same success.”
Taconic went into Saturday’s championship game short-handed.
One of the team’s yearlong starters learned this week that he would not be eligible to play in the final.
Asked to comment on his absence before the game, the Pittsfield athletic department released a statement that read, in part, “With the Taconic High School academic year, and spring marking period, recently completed up on the final day of school, each participating student-athlete's eligibility is subject to review. ... No further statements regarding athletic participation policies, or the eligibility of specific student-athletes, will be made by the Pittsfield Public Schools Athletic Department, Taconic High School coaching staff or Taconic High School baseball team members."
Stannard did say he wasn’t surprised that his team went into Saturday’s game focused on the task at hand and not worried about the circumstances surrounding the absence.
“We’ve gone through some things all year long,” Stannard said. “This is a resilient group. It was, basically: ‘Next man up, who’s going to fill a spot?’ I thought we did it again today. We just didn’t have enough. They were the better team today.”