By Stephen Dravis
iBerkshires Sports -
04:39PM / Friday, July 02, 2021
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- As stellar as Matt Lee has been on the mound this spring for the Taconic baseball team, it has not always needed that brilliance.
On Friday afternoon, it did.
And Lee delivered in a big way.
Lee struck out 12 hitters to lead his team to a 4-2 win over Advanced Math and Science Academy in the semi-finals of the Division 3 state tournament.
The Western Mass Champions will look to defend their 2019 state title on Monday at 3 p.m. when they host Medfield at Wahconah Park.
Evan Blake crushed a two-run homer high over the left field fence at Springfield College's Archie Allen Field, and Lee provided an RBI in the bottom of the sixth to plate Sam Sherman as Taconic (18-0) overcame a two-run deficit in a game that started on Wednesday in Pittsfield.
Lee had two Ks on Wednesday afternoon in the first inning and picked up the rest on Friday when the game was resumed in the top of the second with no score.
"The fastball was working a lot," Lee said. "I felt like I could control that pretty well. The breaking pitch worked well, especially on 0-2 counts when they weren't expecting it. But then you come back with a fastball.
"Good game by everyone in this dugout, and we hope to win on Monday."
Lee made just a couple of mistakes all day.
He surrendered two walks in the top of the third to put men on first and second. Then a two-out single brought in both runners thanks to an overthrow from the outfield.
It stayed 2-0, AMSA, until the bottom of the fourth.
Leo Arace reached on a two-out single, and Blake's blast brought him home to re-energize Taconic.
Lee allowed just two more base-runners -- on a walk and an error -- the rest of the way to finish with the complete-game one-hitter.
"He's been that way all year," Taconic coach Kevin Stannard said. "Honestly, his ERA is probably a .40, and I don't know if he's given up double digits in hits this year."
In addition to the Central Mass Champion Eagles' lineup, Lee had to overcome a curveball courtesy of Mother Nature. A game that began on the familiar mound at Taconic High School ended in a somewhat less familiar setting on the artificial turf field at Springfield College.
Friday's game also was played in a fairly steady rain, which did not help pitchers already adjusting to a turf mound, and Lee's landing foot slipped a couple of times on the afternoon.
"It was a big adjustment," he said. "Playing on grass all year and getting used to the metal spikes, it's a big game changer. But once you settle in and you adapt to it, you just roll with what you usually do.
"I've pitched on turf before. I know what it's like. The rain didn't help, either, especially on turf, but we did it."
After tying the game in the fourth, Taconic had a chance to break it open one inning later.
Lee was hit by a pitch and erased on a fielder's choice that left Bo Bramer at first. Anton Lazits then singled to put two men on, and Brendan Stannard drew a walk to load the bases with one out.
But a fly ball and a strikeout in the heart of Taconic's order ended the threat and kept it a 2-2 game going to the sixth.
AMSA drew a leadoff walk to start its sixth, but Lee fielded a popup in the middle of the infield and struck out the next two batters to keep the game even.
Sherman and Adam Lazits drew back-to-back walks to start the bottom of the sixth. Nick Harrington then laid down a sacrifice bunt to put two men in scoring position with one out for Lee.
His ground ball to the left side drew a throw home that did not catch Sherman, and Taconic had a 3-2 lead.
One batter later, leadoff man Bo Bramer laid down a squeeze bunt to score Adam Lazits for an insurance run.
"Obviously, we played some small ball that we haven't really had to play all year," Kevin Stannard said. "But both those guys who laid down bunts are great bunters on this team. And it's not like we don't work on it. We do.
"Early on, our 2-3-4-5 guys, they can take the ball out of the park. And then, our lower guys, whether we need the base hit or need to get the bunt down, it all works. So far. Hopefully it works for one more game."
Photos from this game here.