Holland's Pitching, Mounties' Bats Secure Western Mass Crown

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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AMHERST, Mass. -- Eli Holland was not exactly dominant in the early stages of Saturday's Western Massachusetts Division 3 Championship Game.
Truth be told, he wasn't even good.
But after walking three men in the first inning, the Mountie was money as top-seeded Mount Greylock beat Hampshire Regional, 11-0, to earn the school's third Western Mass baseball title.
"Coming out there, he hadn't pitched for a month, month in a half, it seems like," Mount Greylock catcher Andrew Rickus said. "So it was a big question mark for everyone, I think.
"After the second, third inning, he started to settle down, we were making plays behind him, our hitting came around. That was it."
If Holland was a question mark going in, he was an exclamation mark over the last six innings, walking just two more men and scattering five hits in a complete-game victory.
"He was a little rusty," Mount Greylock coach Steve Messina said. "He hadn't pitched in a while. And he was in here during all the pre-game stuff, and I asked him, 'Are you ready to go?' He said, 'Yeah,' but I'm not sure if he was.
"He was a little rusty in the first inning, but he settled down. And he battles. He's not going to strike people out, but he battles. He works really hard when he's out there. To throw a complete game on a hot day like this really says something.
"And he really wanted the ball [in the seventh]. That says a lot about him. And the other kids wanted him to take it, too. They wanted him to take the ball and end on a good note."
Mount Greylock's win ensures that its season does not end. It continues this week in Tuesday's state semi-finals.
Saturday's win at the University of Massachusetts' Earl Lorden Field gave Mount Greylock its third sectional title and its first since 2009 ... a significant year in Williamstown baseball circles for other reasons.
"Back in 2009, this same group of seniors won the Cal Ripken [state] championship," Rickus said. "This is what we've been working for the whole time at Mount Greylock, and we finally did it. We couldn't be happier."
On Saturday, the Mounties did all of their damage in the third and fourth innings, batting around in each frame.
In the third, Brodie Altiere got it started with a leadoff walk. He stole second and went to third when the throw down was mishandled. He then scored the game's first run on Hampshire's second error of the inning, which allowed Eric Hirsch to reach safely.
Ian Brink recorded Mount Greylock's first hit of the game, sending Hirsch to third, and Delaney Pudvar's single brought Hirsch home.
Rickus and Michael Strizzi each drove in a run during the six-run third, but the big blow was a two-run single to left from Jesse DiLego.
Four more Mount Greylock hits -- all singles -- and two more Hampshire errors produced five runs in the fourth. Hirsch had a two-run single in that inning, and DiLego (3-for-4) singled, stole a base and scored.
The Mounties ended up with 11 hits off three different Hampshire pitchers after being held hitless the first time through the lineup.
"The guy was a great pitcher," Rickus said of Hampshire starter Daniel Baldwin. "We were a little slow coming out, and that's what happens sometimes. Everyone is a little nervous coming out.
"But after second inning, we started to settle down, and we really started to hit the ball after that."
The Mounties also played strong defense throughout. Although they committed two errors, those came in the sixth and the seventh on overthrows in situations where the ball might have been held in a closer game.
Much more representative of the Mounties defense was the seventh inning play when second baseman Dan Flynn snared a line drive and smoothly doubled off a runner at second in one motion. Then there was the third-inning play -- with the game still 0-0 -- when Hirsch misjudged a ball in center, recovered and made an accurate throw home that allowed Rickus to catcha  Hampshire runner who ran through a stop sign at third base.
Rickus, who went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs at the plate, also threw out two men trying to second, once on a pitch in the dirt.
"He's been unbelievable," Messina said of Rickus. "You know, we knew about Brink. We knew about Dan Flynn. We knew about all these other guys who we expected to come in and have good years. Andrew didn't play last year. He was behind [Nick] DiSanti all year long.
"[Rickus] was at every game, he was working hard in practices. And I'm so happy for him because he has been unbelievable. He took away any stolen base threat that they had today, and that's huge in a game like this. ... He's made big plays like that all year. He's had big hits for us. He had another big hit today.
"He's been rock solid in every way. He's one of our leaders. I'm so happy for him that he's doing well."
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