Berkshire Force Stays Alive at World Series

By Stephen Sports
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Berkshire Force has lost twice at the Babe Ruth Softball World Series, and each time it has come back to win its next game.
It has no more margin for error.
The Force rebounded on Saturday evening to win its first game of the losers bracket at the double-elimination tournament, defeating Plymouth, Mass., 11-1, in six innings and earning the right to play again on Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m.
By bouncing back from its second-round loss in the double-elimination phase of the national championship, the Force kept alive its dream of winning the series on its home turf.
But to do so, it is going to have to find a way to hit consistently against at least one -- likely two -- of the tournament's better pitchers.
On Saturday morning, the Force was stymied for the second time this week by one of those aces. Lodi, Calif.'s, Mariah Mendoza struck out seven and scattered four hits in a 3-0 win that dropped Berkshire into the losers bracket.
On Friday, Madison Williams struck out 12 and gave up three hits for Fern Creek, Ky., in a 9-3 win over the Force.
Kayla Kowalczyk, who had a hit against Williams and Mendoza and a two-run triple in Saturday's blowout of Plymouth, said the Force is capable of generating offense against top tier pitchers.
"I feel like we have to have more confidence," Kowalczyk said. "We know we can hit those people. They're very good pitchers, but we know we know we can hit them.
"So if we just have the confidence in ourselves and string a couple of hits together instead of a couple of hits not strung together spread out through all seven innings, I think we'll be successful."
The other key for Berkshire in big games: cutting down on defensive miscues.
In its two losses, the Force has committed a combined six errors. On Friday, all nine of the Fern Creek runs were unearned. On Saturday, just one of Lodi's runs was earned.
"Mistakes cost us both the games," Berkshire coach Jim Clary said. "The better teams are going to take advantage of defensive mistakes, and that's what they did. Lodi is a very good team."
Does Clary think his team might be pressing in the big games?
"They could be," he said. "They're well prepared for it. Usually the defense for the Force is right there. They're really good. Rarely do they make mistakes. And when you do against the better teams, you pay for it."
Berkshire's Sunday morning opponent will be determined after the outcome of Saturday's late games.
The Force likely will finish out the tournament -- however far it goes -- without two players who started the week, including one who started most games. Rachel Voller was injured on Friday night and spent all day Saturday on crutches. Her big sister Miranda, Berkshire's starting center fielder, hurt her left leg going back into second base after moving up and rounding the bag on a sacrifice bunt against Lodi.
Berkshire Force 6, Waretown, N.J. 1
Saturday morning started with a win for the Force in the knockout phase of the weeklong World Series.
After finishing pool play with a record of 3-1, Berkshire earned the No. 6 seed in the 15-team field.
It jumped out to an early lead on No. 11 Waretown when leadoff hitter Julia Murphy walked, stole two bases and came home on a wild pitch in the first inning.
In the fourth, Berkshire tacked on runs with RBIs from Ashley Keegan and Emily Koldys.
After Waretown got one back in the top of the fifth, Kowalczyk and Hayley Tobin each drove in a run in the fifth, and Kowalczyk's sacrifice fly tacked on another run in the sixth.
Koldys and Keegan split time in the circle, striking out three and allowing two hits.
Lodi, Calif., 3, Berkshire Force 0
Mendoza was the difference for the Extreme, allowing just two runners past second base. Both got to third with two outs in the first first and fourth innings.
Lodi's offense built a picket fence, breaking a scoreless tie with a run in the first and tacking on runs in the fourth and sixth.
The winning run was the only earned run of the game, generated by three hits in the inning.
Berkshire Force 11, Plymouth, Mass., 1
Berkshire again got a run from Julia Murphy to lead off the game. This time, she walked, stole second, moved up on a passed ball and stole home.
This time, the Force followed up with a six-run second inning to break the game open. Murphy and Kowalczyk each tripled home two runs in the decisive rally. Alexandra Desrochers and Tobin also had an RBI apiece.
Berkshire added two more in the fourth to make it 9-0 before Plymouth got on the board in the top of the fifth.
In the bottom of the sixth, Keegan led off with a single and moved up on a wild pitch. Kacey Sondrini doubled her home to give the Force a nine-run lead. And after a wild pitch got Sondrini to third, Megan Boyle grounded out to second with nobody out to drive in the run that ended the game.
More photos to come from Saturday's action
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