PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- A pair of aces Saturday propelled a pair of Pittsfield Little League squads to within one win of going to the state tournament.
Connor Paronto threw five innings of one-hit ball to lead the Pittsfield National Little League 8- to 10-year-old All-Stars at Clapp Park in the first round of their sectional tournament.
Konnor Dugan went the distance, striking out nine in six innings of work as the Pittsfield Americans also won their sectional opener in the 9/11 age bracket.
The wins mean both squads will be home on Monday night with a chance to end their respective double-elimination tournaments.Should either falter, it will be on the road on Tuesday in a winner-take-all finale at the home of Monday’s winner.
On Saturday, Paronto and Dugan were dominant.
The NL ace fanned eight before giving the ball to Evan Roccabruna, who pitched the final inning of an 11-1 win over Division 4 champion Holden.
Holden also was the D4 rep at Deming Park against the Pittsfield AL, where Dugan surrendered just four hits in a 6-2 win.
Both the Americans and the Nationals await Sunday’s elimination games in Agawam and Westfield, respectively, to see who their opponents will be on Monday.
Pittsfield Americans 6, Holden 2
For the second straight week, Dugan was the difference in the post-season.
Six days removed from a gem in a 1-0 District 1 final game, he was right back at it on Saturday, sitting down the first eight men he faced while letting his offense give him a 3-0 lead.
“What we got from Konnor today was a carbon copy of the District 1 championship game,” Pittsfield American coach Joe Skutnik said. “I mean, he was as sharp as could be. You saw it with that last pitch right at the knees. He was confident the whole day.
“When he warmed up today, I said, ‘How do you feel?’ He said, ‘I feel good, coach. I’m ready to go.’ Which is a good thing. You know, we’ve been kind of babying him this week, because that was a stressful situation he was in a week ago.”
Dugan said he was ready for any situation that comes up on the hill.
“Usually, I pitch at least three times a day, and then I just practice usually at home or with my coach,” Dugan said. “I’m usually not afraid on the mound. Pitching is my thing.”
Hitting was Pittsfield’s thing in the bottom of the first.
The Americans scored three times on three hits to give Dugan all the offense he would need.
Sam Gyurjan got things started when he reached on a one-out error. Wes Willey followed with a single to first, and both runners move up on a ground ball to the right side by Christian Barry.
Gyurjan scored the game’s first run on a pitch that got to the backstop. And after John Mullen and Cam Blake worked walks to load the bases, Matt Egan and Ryan Stannard each legged out an infield single that scored a run.
Holden cut the deficit to 3-1 in the third, but Dugan hopped off the mound to field a bunt and fired to first to get the third out and strand a man at second base.
In the bottom of the third, Barry led off with a single and scored with the benefit of a wild pitch and a couple of errors to make it 4-1.
Holden scored again to get within two in the top of the fourth, but the Pittsfield AL answered. Jack Farkas reached on a fielder’s choice, moved up on a ball to the backstop and scored when Willey (2-for-3) singled to right.
Barry scored for the second time in the game in the fifth. He reached on a leadoff walk, moved up on a couple of ground balls and scored on a wild pitch to provide the final margin.
Pittsfield Nationals 11, Holden 1
If Paronto was the No. 1 reason the Nats stayed in the winners’ bracket, his battery mate was reason 1A.
Jason Fields went 2-for-4 with five RBIs at the plate. Behind the plate, he threw out a runner trying to steal third base and made a key play on a throw from center fielder Brenden Socie that cut down a runner attempting to score from second on a single in the bottom of the second.
Pittsfield NL coach Mark Socie said Fields is one of just two 9-year-olds on the team and one of its hardest workers.
“If you listen to the walk-up songs we have, he chose Rick Ross’ ‘Hustlin’,’ “ Socie said. “It’s perfect. The kid is just non-stop during practice. He’s always hustling. It’s a fitting song, and he picked it himself.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him. Connor pitched a great game. We did a great job today.”
The designated visitors on their home field, the Nats jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.
Roccabruna led off with a double down the line in left, moved up on a ball to the backstop and scored when Paronto reached on a fielder’s choice. Paronto moved up when a couple of balls got away from Holden’s catcher and scored on a groundout by Fields to make it 2-0.
Three Holden errors helped the Nats double their lead in the second.
In the fourth, the Pittsfield NL went ahead 7-0.
Chase O’Donnell started the three-run rally when he was hit by a pitch. A walk and an infield single by Cade Dmary (2-for-4) loaded the bases for Paronto, who grounded out to the right side to score a run.
Fields then singled to right to drive in Roccabruna and Demary for a commanding seven-run lead.
Holden took advantage of an outfield error to score a run in the bottom of the fourth.
But the Nats put the game away with a four-hit, four-run top of the sixth that featured another two-run single by Fields.
Socie was happy with the way his team handled the pressure of its sectional opener.
“They’re only 9 and 10, and there is a lot of anxiety and pressure coming into a sectional game, their first time ever playing a team from outside Berkshire County,” Socie said.
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