WILBRAHAM, Mass. -- Things went wrong in a hurry for the Pittsfield Post 68 American Legion Baseball team in the late innings on Tuesday night.
But as his team slowly made its way into the gloaming at Spec Pond Recreation Area, coach Pat Bassi pivoted to thoughts of everything that went right in the program over the better part of a decade.
“A lot of these kids have played for me since they were 13, when I was still coaching Babe Ruth, so there’s a lot of history with us,” Bassi said after a 7-3 loss to Greenfield in the Western Massachusetts Senior Legion tournament.
“We just didn’t have it tonight.”
And Bassi knows what it is like to have it in the post-season.
“I don’t look at this as a great season because we didn’t really go where I expected we’d go,” he said. “We’ve been Western Mass champions four of the last six years, so I was expecting to do it again.
“But it wasn’t meant to be.”
Instead, it was Greenfield Post 81 which went on to win Tuesday’s nightcap against the Wilbraham Post 286 Red squad and claim the section’s berth in the state championship.
For five innings, it looked like Post 68 would be able to give Bassi that fifth title.
Starting pitcher Ian Benoit worked his way out of a jam in the first inning to strand two runners, and he proceeded to retire 10 straight in the middle innings, getting help from second baseman Henry Sniezek’s 6-3 double play to end the third.
Meanwhile, Post 68’s offense broke the seal on a scoreless game in the bottom of the fourth.
Joe Traversa led off with a double to left field, moved up on a wild pitch and scored when Hunter Potash’s grounder to the left side snuck through for a seeing-eye single.
In the fifth, Pittsfield doubled its narrow lead.
Sniezek led off with a single to left. Carter Matthews then reached on a bunt single to put two men on for Cal Messina. Messina reached on a bunt of his own, and an errant throw on the play sent the ball into right field, allowing Sniezek to come all the way around and make it 2-0.
But Post 68 squandered a chance for a big inning in the fifth when Greenfield reliever Jacob Berry got the third out on a grounder to the mound with the bases loaded.
Riding that momentum, Greenfield scored four in the top of the sixth to take the lead with five base hits. Pinch-hitter Max Charest had the big blow, a two-out, two-run single down the line in left to drive in runs three and four.
After Berry stranded a runner on first in the bottom of the sixth, Post 81 scored three insurance runs in the top of the seventh, chasing Post 68 starter Ian Benoit (6 innings, two strikeouts, five runs) in the process.
Bassi later said that the three-run seventh was pivotal because it took away Pittsfield’s options in the bottom of the seventh, when it had the top of the order due.
“If we had held [them] then that last inning, I may have laid down a bunt there, you know?” he said.
Post 68 caught a break when leadoff man Matthews reached on an error. Messina and Traversa followed with singles, the latter scoring Matthews to make it 7-3.
But Berry retired the next three men on a pair of fly balls and a groundout to end Post 68’s season.
It also ended, for the time being, Bassi’s run as coach of the Legion team. He has announced that he will be stepping aside for at least one season next summer.
Although this summer ended sooner than he had hoped, he was proud of what his players have given him over the years.
“Two straight years, the teams that beat us [at the state tournament] went to the World Series and were World Series runners-up,” Bassi said. “So we had some pretty good teams, some really good teams.
“I’m proud of the kids. They play the game right, they respect the game, and that’s what it’s all about.”
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