Mount Greylock Baseball Reaches State Final
WESTFIELD, Mass. -- Delaney Pudvar had a simple explanation for the Mount Greylock baseball team's offensive explosion on Wednesday afternoon.
"Hitting is contagious," he offered.
And, in fact, Pudvar's third-inning triple was the first of four extra-base hits for the Mounties in an 8-2 win over Auburn in the state Division 3 semi-finals.
But just as important for Mount Greylock on Wednesday was the fact that while hitting was contagious, mistakes were not.
Mount Greylock committed two errors in the first two innings; the second helped give the Central Mass champion Rockets a 1-0 lead.
But rather than letting the miscues mount, the Mounties got down to business in the bottom of the second, taking a 2-1 lead on the way to their fourth straight post-season victory.
"All these kids have been playing together for a long, long time, and they really know each other," Mount Greylock coach Steve Messina said. "And they pick each other up. So if somebody makes a mistake, makes an error, they're right there to rally around them.
"They've been doing that since they were 8 years old."
Most of them are 18, more than a week removed from their high school graduation and still wearing the colors of their now alma mater for one more game: Saturday's 3:30 p.m. state championship game at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, where the Mounties will face St. Mary's of Lynn, a 3-2 winner over East Bridgewater on Wednesday in the North-South semi-final.
As much as this season has been about the bumper crop of seniors at Mount Greylock, it was junior southpaw Adam Hall who pitched the team into the state final. Hall struck out four and surrendered just one earned run in a complete game victory.
Like his defense, Hall was not perfect on Wednesday. He surrendered nine hits and walked two. But the important thing is that he stranded 10 runners on base.
"That's how Adam's been throwing this year and last year," Messina said. "He battles like crazy. He's very composed. Even if he's behind in the count. Even in that last inning, he was behind in the count and he got the kid to pop up.
"That's how he pitches. We know that as a coaching staff. We know what he's made of. So, we're always nervous in games like this, but with him on the mound, it's a little more relaxed feeling because we know the kind of guts he has."
Hall started showing those guts in the top of the first inning, when pair of singles and an error put runners on corners with one out. He got the next batter to swing at strike three and the third out on a fly ball to Jesse DiLego in right.
Hall book-ended the game with another first-and-third situation, this time with two out. But he got the final out on a ground ball to shortstop Brodie Altiere, who tossed to Dan Flynn at second to end the game.
"You know, there's always a little bit of nerves going out there, but not every much," the equanimous Hall said. "I just always try to stay calm. Keep your head in the game."
That was the story right up to the seventh inning. Hall said he did not even have a conversation with Messina about whether he would come out to finish the game after working from the stretch most of the afternoon.
"If I mess up, we had Josh [Jezouit] coming in to shut them down," Hall said.
Just another example of where the Mounties "pick each other up" -- not that Hall needed the relief this time around.
Offensively, Mount Greylock picked up two runs in the bottom of the second to erase its early deficit. Jake Benzinger (3-for-3, double, two RBIs) got things started with a single up the middle. He then raced all the way around on Delaney Pudvar's triple over the center fielder's head.
Pudvar came home one batter later when Dan Flynn hit a sacrifice fly to right.
After Hall recorded his only 1-2-3 inning of the game in the top of the third, Mount Greylock opened things up with a five-run third inning.
It started when Michael Strizzi drew a seven-pitch walk in the nine hole. Altiere followed with a single to right, and Eric Hirsch bunted his way aboard to load the bases.
Ian Brink hit a sac fly to make it 3-1, and he was followed by three straight hits: Benzinger's two-run single, Pudvar's RBI double and Flynn's RBI triple to chase Auburn starter Ryan Mulcahy.
Auburn's second pitcher put out the fire, but Mount Greylock had a 7-1 lead through three innings.
Hall held the Rockets down over the next two innings -- getting back-to-back strikeouts to strand runners at the corners in the fifth. And Benzinger doubled in a run in the bottom of the fifth to push the lead to 8-1.
A walk, a wild pitch and a couple of infield singles produced an Auburn run in the sixth, but that was all the Rockets could manage.
"Adam pitched amazing today," Pudvar said. "He started off a little slow, the first inning, but he kept battling back. He did great.
"We're so proud of that kid right now."