Pitching, Defense Help Mounties Clinch Tourney Bid, South Title
CHESHIRE, Mass. -- The Mount Greylock and Hoosac Valley baseball teams have both come a long way since the Mounties won a 10-9 decision back in their season opener with the Hurricanes.
On Friday, they showed just how far as Mount Greylock again defeated Hoosac by a run -- this time a 2-1 victory that was decided by three big defensive plays by the Mounties in the last two innings.
“We’ve talked about that all year,” Mount Greylock coach Steve Messina said. “We had some games early on where we lost close games, and the difference was -- I think of Drury where the Rumbolt kid made some great defensive plays diving in the hole, a double play up the middle. And that was the difference, teams were making great plays, and we were making average plays.
“Today, we made some really good plays at the end of the game.”
The Mounties scratched out a run in the top of the fifth to break a 1-1 tie.
In the fifth, Hoosac drew a leadoff walk, but Mounties catcher Hunter Abriel caught the runner napping off first, and Mount Greylock executed a rundown to erase the threat.
In the sixth, there were two “web gems.” The first came when leadoff man Dahndray Sistrunk hit a dangerous ball to right, but freshman Cal Messina tracked it down and dove to make the out.
The Mounties’ lone error of the game and a walk put runners on first and second, and a fielder’s choice put men at the corners with two out. Hoosac’s Keegan McGrath then stole second to put two men in scoring position with two out for Chris Larabee.
Larabee hit it hard over to the right side for what appeared to be a game-tying single, but Mount Greylock second baseman Zach Condon raced into the hole and snared the ball on the outfield grass. Then he delivered to his brother, pitcher Brandon, covering first base to just catch Larabee and retire the side.
In the seventh, Messina provided one more highlight, going well to his right this time to prevent a leadoff hit on a ball that appeared to be in no-man’s land.
It all combined to make Brandon Condon a complete-game winner and give the Mounties their 10th win of the season, a ticket to the Western Mass Division 3 tournament and the championship of the Berkshire County South Division.
“That’s what you’ve got to do in games like this where you’re scratching and clawing,” Steve Messina said. “You have to come up with the big play. We were able to do that today.
“And Brandon did a good job on the mound. He’s been great.”
Condon struck out five, walked three and allowed just three hits to beat a Hoosac Valley team that came in on a nine-game winning streak.
On the hill for Hoosac Valley, Matt Koperniak’s numbers were arguably even better: five hits, six Ks, no walks and no earned runs in a complete game loss.
Hoosac Valley (9-6) committed two errors, and both times the Mounties (10-6) took advantage.
In the fourth, Messina (2-for-3) led off with a single to left, and Brodie Altiere followed with a single down the third base line.
Philip Guest then reached on an error that sent Messina home from second. Koperniak retired the next three men to strand to runners, but the damage was done.
Jake Swistak got that run back with one swing to lead off the home half of the fourth. His blast over the left-field fence made it 1-1.
Mount Greylock regained the lead in the fifth. This time, Cole Wojtkowski led off the inning by reaching on an error. Zach Condon bunted him into scoring position, and Messina hit a single up the middle to pick up the RBI.
The Mounties, who have won four of their last five, are home on Saturday against Westfield. Hoosac Valley is on the road Saturday at Gateway.
Hoosac coach Mike Larabee said that the Hurricanes got a taste of tournament-caliber baseball on Friday. And one blemish on the win-loss record cannot stop the momentum his team has built the last few weeks.
“We did a lot of good things [today],” Larabee said. “We’ve been playing good baseball. I think we’ve got some kids who will respond. I think we’ll bounce back. We’re a solid ballclub.
“I was happy with the way we played, but the mistakes haunted us. In a good game, you can’t have that.”