Thrilling Finish as Dalton Little Leaguers Get Back to Fun
DALTON, Mass. -- Everything went according to plan for the Dalton Police Association team in Tuesday’s Little League season opener.
Not because the DPA earned an 11-9 win over Crosier Electric but because of the fun that Dalton Police had in the process.
“We talk a little about fundamentals and very, very little about [competitive] mindset,” DPA head coach Joe Kotelnicki said after his team earned a win in its Dalton-Hinsdale Little League opener. “We talk a lot about fun.
“Nobody’s played a lot. We all haven’t seen each other in a long time. So when we all got back together, every practice we try to do something fun at the end, whether it’s pickle or Wiffle Ball or something just to get the kids back to having fun. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
His players had a lot of fun in the closing innings on Tuesday night. DPA scored seven runs in the bottom of the fifth to erase a 9-4 deficit and got the final out after putting runners on second and third with Crosier’s No. 2 hitter at the plate.
Crosier got the laughs early, scoring three in the third and three more in the fourth to go ahead, 7-1.
It was still a five-run margin when DPA’s Logan Goyette, Evan Charter and Brandon Witherell led off the bottom of the fifth with back-to-back-to-back walks.
After Crosier earned the inning’s first out, Jake Wasuk and Alex Roots worked two more walks to drive in a run apiece before James Rabuse was issued a bases-loaded intentional free pass to make it 9-7. Wasuk and Roots came home on walks before Rabuse scampered home when a pitch got to the backstop to give DPA its first lead of the game.
Crosier’s fourth pitcher of the game, Shane Allessio, worked a pair of strikeouts to end the inning, but not until DPA had a two-run lead.
In the top of the sixth, Wasuk struck out the first two men he faced before Noah Aldrich drew a walk in the nine hole to keep Crosier’s hopes alive.
Leadoff man Ben Barry then laced a double to center field, the only extra-base hit of the game, to put the tying run in scoring position.
Aldrich attempted to score when a pitch got away from DPA catcher Logan Goyette, but Goyette hustled back to grab the ball and beat Aldrich to home plate to make the tag and end the game.
The game started out with the look of a pitcher’s duel between DPA’s Rabuse and Crosier’s Barry, but neither ended up factoring into the decision.
Rabuse racked up eight strikeouts in 2-⅔ innings of work. But a pair of walks, an error and a bunt single by Jacoby Vincelette keyed Crosier’s three-run third to take a 4-1 lead.
Meanwhile, Crosier’s Barry struck out seven in 2-⅔ innings but left with men on second and third and a three-run lead in the third. Vincellette came on in relief to get the final out swinging and keep it a 4-1 game.
Crosier then tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning after Barry led off the inning with a single up the middle.
In the bottom of the fourth, Rabuse’ second hit of the game helped DPA trim the margin to 7-4, but Crosier’s Ben Westlake hit a two-run single up the middle in the top of the fifth to push his team’s lead back to 9-4.
Although in another time, Crosier’s players might have been disappointed to see that lead evaporate, on Tuesday, everyone was just happy that the season did not disappear entirely but rather was delayed from its usual spring start until this week’s Phase 3 of the commonwealth’s reopening.
The other two county Little Leagues all got their seasons underway on Monday night as play began in the Pittsfield National League and Pittsfield American League.
In this most irregular season, no one is thinking about all-stars or state playoffs. The emphasis is on having a good time.
“We’ve been practicing for three weeks, probably two practices a week," Kotelnicki said. A lot of these kids haven’t played baseball since the end of the summer last year. It’s been 10 months or more. … Our pitcher is one of our best players, and he came off frustrated at one point. I had to remind him, ‘You haven’t thrown to a batter in 10 months. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. Have fun. It's our first game.' "