'Canes Finally Take Down Mounties in Ninth
ADAMS, Mass — A battle between the two best teams in the South Division went a little longer than expected on Monday night, lasting nine intense and exciting innings before the Hoosac Valley baseball team walked off with a 4-3 win over Mount Greylock at Renfrew Park.
After three lead changes and three ties, the Hurricanes finally broke through for the run they needed in the bottom of the ninth. Sophomore Matt Braman led off the frame with a looping single to right field. Hoosac failed to bunt him over to second base, so the speedy Braman stole it on his own for his third steal of the game. Mounties reliever Robbie Buffis intentionally walked Tanner Bird to put runners on first and second base and then loaded the bases up by accidently walking Zach Brassard.
Greylock head coach Steve Messina was forced to play with his infield in with only one out in the inning, allowing senior Corey Meczywor the opportunity he needed to drive in the winning run. He slapped a sharp grounder to Greylock second baseman Billy Pulasky, who couldn't field the ball cleanly and had no chance of throwing out Braman, who scored the winning run from third.
The extra-inning, dramatic win improves the Hurricanes' overall record to 6-2 and gives them sole possession of first place in the South Division at 5-1. The Mounties, meanwhile, fall to 5-3 overall and to second place in the South with a 3-2 league mark.
"That was a good high school game," Hoosac head coach Bob Rivard said shortly after Braman scored the winning run. "We knew coming in that they play really good defense. They've been really sharp on defense, so we knew we couldn't make a lot of mistakes. We just had to hack at the ball and try and put some runs across. That's the way we approached it today."
Both squads had a chance to win the game an inning early in what turned out to be a back-and-forth, topsy turvy eighth frame. A leadoff walk followed by a towering shot by junior Andrew Leitch that fell just inside the left-field line gave Greylock runners on first and second base with one out. Sophomore Nick DiSanti then came through with his third hit of the game, roping an RBI single through the left side of the 'Canes infield that put the visitors up 3-2. Bird, who struck out eight batters in three innings of critical relief, then got out of trouble by fanning the next two batters. His third strike on Nick Zimmerman got away from the catcher, however, allowing Zimmerman to reach first base safely and loading the bases with two outs.
Bird got Derek Romejko to ground into a fielder's choice in the next at bat, though, leaving the hosts with just a one-run deficit heading into the bottom half of the inning. That deficit didn't seem quite so large after Bird led off with a single up the middle to start off Hoosac's half of the inning. Bird advanced to second base on a passed ball and later moved to third when senior first baseman Brassard blooped a single to shallow right. Meczywor then came up with his first big play of the game, ripping a single over the second-base bag to tie the game at three runs apiece.
"I've been around a lot of high school baseball games, and this was a great game," Messina said. "I told the guys at the end of the game that we all feel bad that we came out on the losing end of this, but they were a part of a great, great baseball game, so they have to take that away from this. We were both one hit away the whole night. It's tough because they threw some good pitchers out there with some good arms, and it's tough to get the ball in play and really make good, solid contact. The couple times we did, they made good plays in the field."
The Hurricanes were more than one hit away a few times in the game, especially in the bottom of the eighth when Meczywor's single left runners at first and second base with nobody out. A groundout by Connor Tworig moved the runners along to second and third base, but Hoosac was unable to take advantage of a fly ball to left field with the bases loaded because pinch runner Sean Ryan-Kut tagged up too early. Buffis, who ended up being charged with the loss, then did a great job of keeping his team alive, striking out Jesse Larabee to push the game into the ninth.
"I felt like we could have easily got down [at that point], but we went to the field and Mike [Koperniak] pitched great," Bird said. "We had the top of the order coming up, so I knew we could get it done."
After starter Justin Nichols and Bird allowed seven hits combined and two earned runs in the first eight innings of play, Koperniak came on in the top of the ninth and worked his way around a walk and a hit to keep the game tied at 3-3. With runners on second and third base with two outs, Koperniak induced a fly ball to center field to end the frame. His one scoreless inning was enough to earn the win and improve his season record to 4-0 this year.
While there were plenty of base runners late in the game, there wasn't much action on the diamond in the early innings. Nichols didn't allow a hit until the top of the fourth, when the Mounties tied the game on DiSanti's RBI single past Larabee at second base. Overall, Nichols allowed just one earned run on four hits, striking out one and walking two in five innings of work. Of the four hits he allowed, only two of them left the infield.
"Nichols gave us five good innings," Rivard said. "He throws the ball well. He's a skinny kid and doesn't look like much of anything, but the next thing you know the fastball is on top of you and he's got the breaking ball you have to be careful of. He gave us five, and then Tanner came in and shut the door. Even though he gave up a run, he battled."
Greylock starter Avery Cunningham was equally impressive, allowing two earned runs on five hits through seven innings. He struck out two, walked two and battled all the way into the eighth inning, when Messina replaced him after allowing the leadoff single to Bird. The Hurricanes got to Cunningham with one run in the second inning, taking advantage of a two-out error to get a runner on second base before senior Adam Mazzantini came through with an RBI single down the left-field line.
Hoosac scored another run in the bottom of the fourth, taking a 2-1 lead when Tworig drove in Brassard with a single to center. That looked to be the game's winning run until the visitors scratched and clawed their way back in the top of the sixth. Bird allowed a one-out walk to Andrew Leitch, who moved all the way to third base on DiSanti's single up the middle. Bird came back with a big strikeout of Josh Fortier for the second out, but was called for balk when he was distracted by pinch runner Ted Burdick attempting to steal second base. Leitch walked home to tie the game, which would go on for three and half more innings after that.
"My first instinct was to just twitch," Bird said. "I was going to go to first but there was no one over there, so I didn't bother throwing. I didn't lift my foot up, one thing led to another and it was a balk. It was tough, but I knew that we could come back and get it because we had the bottom of the order coming up."
Despite that one little hiccup, Bird couldn't be more happier with what turned out to be the 'Canes biggest win of the season so far.
"I think we played well, and we never gave up," he said. "We really showed our composure and came together as a team at the end like we know how to. We hit the ball, we didn't make that many mistakes and we pitched fairly well. It was a team effort on everyone's part. Whether it was making plays in the field, pitching, catching or hitting, everyone was a factor in the game, and it was really fun."
Hoosac next hosts Lenox at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, while Greylock plays at St. Joe's at 4:15 p.m. on the same day.