Pittsfield’s Offense Shines in Western Mass Win
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Pittsfield Generals remembered their bats on Saturday, swinging the lumber like they were forks and knives and feasting their way to a 15-5 win over the Chicopee Comp Colts, in a Western Mass Quarterfinal at Buddy Pellerin Field.
Pittsfield broke a tie game wide open by batting around the order and scoring eight runs in the bottom of the third inning. The Generals (19-2) scored in nearly every inning and enjoyed production out of batter in the lineup.
“It was 1-1 and they were playing a really good game and we were playing a really good game, and when it is a tight game and you just break it open like that, it just shows that we belong here and we have a place to go,” Jaden Coscia said. “We can do a lot things in this tournament, and we just kept hitting the baseball.”
Pittsfield advances back to the Western Mass Division I semifinals at the University of Massachusetts, where the Generals will host the East Longmeadow Spartans on Monday at 4 p.m. East Longmeadow (11-6) advanced thanks to a 5-3 victory over Minnachaug in another quarterfinal on Saturday
The Spartans will face a veteran Generals squad that came focused, hungry and prepared on Saturday even despite not having played for five days, a team that has now won 10 straight and looks to have two more wins left in the tank.
“Mentally, we are a strong group,” Pittsfield head coach Seamus Morrison said. “We are led by eight seniors, so that helps a lot. We’ve been there before, and this will be their third semifinal trip in four years. We’ve played big games in big moments. All week we had different guys come out and throw to us, and we had a couple of ex-players and some college guys come and throw, just to keep us on our toes and keep us getting live at bats and not just BP. It really showed today. They’ve been working since January and hitting twice a week, and this is what they are working for is to get to this point.”
The two sides exchanged runs early on and carried a tie score into the bottom of the third, when the Generals led off the frame with the top of the order coming around for the second time. The hitters made excellent adjustments and broke the seal clean off, sending 13 batters to the plate to take a 9-1 lead.
“We talk all the time that the first time through, see what the pitcher is doing,” Morrison said. “We were all over the fact that he couldn’t get his breaking ball over for strikes, so we were sitting on one pitch. No matter how hard you throw, when you are sitting on a fastball and you get one through the zone good hitters should be able to hit it. We’ve got a bunch of good hitters.”
The Colts (11-9) sent left-handed Wheaton College commit Zachary Nichols to the bump for the start, and the southpaw showcased a deceptive delivery and an assortment of pitches at his disposal. Nichols allowed an unearned run when John Halse scored on an RBI single from Zach Zerbato in the second, but otherwise held his own the first time through the batting order. But the Generals made their adjustments and went to work after that.
“We heard at the beginning of the day that it was going to be a good, left-handed pitcher,” first baseman Joe Cracolici said. “He definitely does a good job of masking what he is going to throw, whether it be the off-speed stuff or just a straight fastball. To combat that we were just looking for that first-pitch fastball; don’t let him get ahead in the count and throw all that off-speed stuff. Just look for that first fastball and drive it.”
Pittsfield applied the pressure early and often in the third. Joe Traversa sent a flare past third base to get it started, Ian Benoit walked and Hunter Potash put the Generals ahead for good by shooting an RBI single up the middle. Ryan LaPierre put the ball in play on a check swing, which resulted in a throwing error that allowed Benoit to score. Two batters later, Coscia put a charge in a shot deep to center for a two-RBI double that helped break things open.
“We just come in and we really want to be aggressive. That is really what we want to do at the plate,” Coscia said. “It is always want I do. I just want to hit the first pitch, and I think we did a good job of finding good pitches and swinging, and laying off the bad stuff. We made him come to us, and we had a lot of good hitter’s counts, 2-0, 3-1, so that was really good job. We were really aggressive when we got those pitches.”
That aggressiveness led to production all the way through the order, with Cracolici having an outstanding day hitting at the bottom of the order. After Zerbato singled to keep things going in the third, Cracolici connected for the first of two RBI singles on a day in which he put the ball in play all four at bats and reached base three times to help keep turning the order back over.
“I love to face those lefties,” Cracolici said. “I really enjoy lefties, so I was just looking for that first fastball. I knew being the last guy in the bottom of the order I was mostly going to get those four-seam and two-seam fastballs. I just looked for those and the rest is history.”
The Generals kept making history to pile onto the inning. Starting pitcher Carter Matthews drew a walk on six pitches to load the bases, and Traversa followed by working the count full to then draw an RBI walk. Benoit then capped the big frame off by waiting back and driving a base hit to left that drove in two more runs.
“This is definitely a challenging lineup. My assistant and I were talking in the game that this is the best hitting team we have seen in five years,” Chicopee Comp head coach Justin Franczek said. “Zach attacked them well early. But they did a nice job handling whatever we threw at them, and they really rake. One-through-nine, there is no easy out in that lineup.”
The Colts showcased their heart and grit in how they responded to that tough third inning, hanging in the fight for all seven innings and scoring runs in nearly each frame to keep clawing back. Pittsfield could not set things on cruise control, and instead had to keep slugging away and maintaining control.
“It is a resilient group of guys,” Franczek said. “It’s a group that has been playing together, and there are eight seniors who have been playing together since they were sophomores. They’ve battled and we’ve won some games that we shouldn’t have this year, and I thought we were going to be able to chip away and make it a ball game. But they chipped in a couple more and really took the wind out of our sails.”
The Generals added four more runs in the fourth and two more in the sixth to push things out of reach. Coscia, Cracolici and Matthews all had RBIs in the fourth, and Benoit and Potash drove in the final two base runners with their last swings in the sixth.
Pittsfield enjoyed a strong show of support from the large crowd that came to Clapp Park to cheer them on, including many members of the softball team that came after their 21-0 quarterfinal victory over Chicopee.
“It’s great having all those people here, and having the softball team here supporting us,” Coscia said. “We wanted to go support them, but it was tough since they played before us. But having all these people here is great, and they want to see us do well. It is great motivation to do what we do. It was a great day for PHS today.”
Pittsfield has not advanced past this point in the playoffs in any of the previous few trips. But this year’s group has a different feel to them, a hunger and drive like no other. It is the appetite of champions, and dinner may soon be served.
“When you’re senior-heaving you cannot say that you will get them next year. This is the year,” Morrison said. “They graduate tomorrow and luckily they get to sit in there and think about the great game they just played instead of regretting some things. We’ll go on and we’ll be ready to go. I’m very proud of them and very proud of the hard work they put in. They deserve everything they are getting right now.”