Friday, June 15, 2018

Longmeadow Needs Just One to Advance to Sectional Final, End Magical Pittsfield Run

By John McGuirk (@PatsFan1313)

AMHERST, Mass. - Since mid-April every game has played out like a tournament showdown for Pittsfield. Following a close one run defeat versus St. Peter-Marian back on April 18th, the Generals were teetering on the edge of postseason elimination. 

However, since that loss to the Guardians, Pittsfield has embarked on a remarkable reversal of fortune. 

Facing No. 3 Longmeadow on a breezy, partly cloudy afternoon at UMass' Earl Lorden Field, a new lease on life had Pittsfield riding a wave of momentum. But the Generals' late magical run came to a sudden halt as Longmeadow plated a solo run in the third inning and made it stand to defeat Pittsfield, 1-0.

Longmeadow (15-7) will play in its first sectional final here on Saturday against No. 4 Pope Francis at 4 p.m. The Cardinals (15-7) fell to the Lancers twice during the regular season. 

"These kids have been working hard all year," said Longmeadow coach Michael Athas, a former UMass shortstop. "To be able to just buckle down and make some big plays is what this game came down to. If we didn't make one or two of those plays (Pittsfield) could have broken it out. We talk about playing with mental toughness all of the time."

Longmeadow junior pitcher Michael Carterud was solid throughout, improving his record to 5-1. The right-hander was around the plate from the outset with a mix of fastballs and off-speed deliveries. 

"Mike was in the mode today," Athas said. "He had all his pitches working for strikes. He is just a gamer for us and nothing seems to phase him."

On three different occasions the Generals had runners on base only to see those opportunities squandered. 

In the second inning, Hunter Potash led off by reaching second on a throwing miscue only to be picked-off by Carterud. One inning later, Noah Santos opened by lining an opposite field double into right, but a Ryan LaPierre grounder resulted in Santos being tagged out after a brief rundown. 

In the Generals' sixth, Joe Traversa was hit by a pitch to begin the frame. Moments later, however, the junior was thrown out by Lancers’ catcher Zach Wright on an attempted steal. 

"Unfortunately we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit," Pittsfield coach Seamus Morrison said. "We had bad base running pretty-much the entire game. It ended up being the difference. In a close game like this you have to make all the plays. Today we didn't do that."

Carterud went the distance, allowing five hits, striking out one and walking two. 

"I was able to hit my spots today," Carterud said. "I am always able to trust my team in the field to make the plays. My objective was to get ahead of their hitters as much as possible. Them running into a couple of outs today really helped me out a lot."

After Longmeadow went ahead in the bottom of the third, Pittsfield had a golden opportunity to make some noise in its half of the fourth.

Singles by Ian Benoit and Marco DiNicola got things started. A sacrifice bunt by Potash advanced both runners into scoring position. Jon Halse followed with a walk to load the bases. Hayden Harrington proceeded by banging a grounder to second baseman Pat Philbin. The junior threw to second for the force out but shortstop Michael Barrett's throw to first was a tad late allowing Benoit to score. The umpires ruled, however, that Halse made an illegal slide towards Barrett resulting in a double play and taking the run off the board. 

Longmeadow left the bases loaded in the second with nothing to show for it, but came back one inning later to take the lead. Senior Tyler Achatz began the inning by lining an opposite field triple into right field. Two batters later, Carterud ripped a single into right, putting Longmeadow ahead 1-0. Pittsfield lefty pitcher Carter Matthews managed to keep it a one run deficit by retiring Barrett and Wright in succession. 

"Carter pitched great," said Morrison, his team finishing at 13-10. "They got that one run and that was it. He kept us in it and that's all you can ask for. But if you don't score you don't win. We didn't start the year out particularly well after going 3-7. But we did expect to be here. We knew the type of talent we had on this club. It took us a little bit to get going and then we started to get hot. Unfortunately we were a little flat today."

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