WESTFIELD – Westfield has earned a reputation as a baseball – and hockey – town, but is quickly becoming known for its play on the diamond nationwide.
For the second time in three seasons, Westfield has advanced to the World Series of Babe Ruth Baseball. The Whip City’s 14-Year-Old All-Stars won a 10-inning thriller Thursday, defeating Trumbull (Conn.) 5-4 in the New England regionals championship at Bullens Field.
Mitchell Longley delivered the game-winning base hit, a bases-loaded line drive single up the middle in the bottom of the 10th that scored Nate Bonini from third base to send Westfield to the World Series Aug. 15-22 in Ocala, Florida.
“I barely made contact on two strikes,” said Longley, who finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs. “(Trumbull reliever Tyler Zikias) gave me a strike. I wanted to hit it. I didn’t want to walk for the winning run. If it was a pitch I could handle, I was going to do what I could normally do.”
Bonini shook off an 0-for-2 start by collecting a one-out single to begin the 10th. Kyle Roberts followed with a walk, and Aidan Dunn walked with two outs to load the bases. Longley’s walk-off hit ended the game.
“We all knew we could get a hit,” Longley said. “We knew that if we executed, eventually we would get a run to win it.”
Westfield set the tone early at the plate when lead-off batter Matt Masciadrelli jumped on Trumbull starter Mike D’Agostino’s first pitch for a ringing double to left-center field. A passed ball and a Longley hit tied the game 1-1.
Westfield entered the game trailing 1-0, courtesy of consecutive fielding errors (which could easily be chalked up to nerves) to begin the game and a one-out sac fly from Zikias.
Westfield scored two runs in the third, thanks to one of Roberts’ three walks, two stolen stolen bases, a dropped third strike, fielder’s choice on a ball put in play by Dunn, and Longley’s RBI single.
The Whip City tacked on another run in the fifth when Andrew Tobias singled, advanced to second base on a John Daley sac-bunt, moved to third on an error by the catcher, and scored on a wild pitch.
Westfield’s shaky defense though surfaced again.
Tony Socci and D’Agostino notched consecutive base hits for Trumbull to begin the sixth inning, forcing a pitching change. Westfield starter John Daley exited after scattering six hits, and allowing just three walks. He struck out two.
Dunn came on in relief, but the defense committed three errors behind him, allowing two runs to score. A run-scoring hit from Andrew Lojko made it 4-4.
Westfield’s defense atoned for its earlier mistakes by turning a 6-4-3 double play, and recording a ground out to end the threat.
Both teams had several chances to score over innings 7-9, including a golden opportunity for Trumbull in the seventh.
Nolan Nemchek led off the seventh with a single, but was doubled up when the Westfield catcher caught a fly ball on a botched bunt attempt and fired to first to beat the base runner back to the bag for a double play. The Connecticut squad still managed to load the bases in the inning, but Dunn forced a ground out to end the threat.
The thrill of victory and the jaws of defeat continued to teeter back and forth like a seesaw from one team to the other. Neither team would budge, until Longley pushed one past the defense to seal both team’s fates.
“We continued to battle,” Westfield manager John Bonini said. “We’ve faced adversity ever since this tournament began. That doesn’t bother us.”
Westfield was struck by bad fortune just prior to opening play in the eastern regionals when ace pitcher Dalen Mochak suffered a season-ending injury in a warm-up game, playing alongside his teammates.
Although Mochak fueled his team’s tournament run early, his teammates persevered to overcome the odds.
“These kids stayed with it,” Bonini said. “They have tremendous character.”
Notes: The last time a team from Westfield appeared in a Babe Ruth World Series was 2012 when the then 13-Year-Olds won the eastern regionals championship, also played at Bullens Field.