Grueling climb ends

FLORENCE – Westfield’s heroic run through the loser’s bracket of the 2017 American Legion playoffs came to an end late Sunday afternoon with a 5-3 loss to top-seeded Northampton Post 28. The loss came in Westfield’s fifth game in three days, and second trip to Arcanum Field in 24 hours.
Two rainouts after losing its first playoff game Tuesday in the double-elimination tournament forced the tournament to resort to doubleheaders on both Saturday and Sunday. Westfield stayed alive with an easy Friday night win over Monson, then had to go on the road to win twice on Saturday, first at Greenfield and next at Northampton. Remember, every game after its opening-game loss was an elimination game for Westfield – win and you get to keep on playing, lose and you’re done.
On Sunday, Westfield had to win a hotly contested rematch with Agawam at noon to reach the bracket final against Northampton at dinnertime.
After having won four straight and eliminated three teams, Westfield couldn’t beat Northampton a second time in two days, giving up single runs in the third and fifth to fall 5-3.
Westfield scored first, with two outs in the first. J.D. Huntley walked and moved to second on Stefan Krol’s single through the right side. Huntley scored on Jack Blake’s single to center for the 1-0 lead.
After Northampton touched starter Devin Baker for three in the bottom of the first, Post 124 tied the game with a pair of runs in the third. With two outs, Krol and Blake put together back-to-back singles. Anthony Riga next grounded hard up the middle and Blake beat the tag at second to load the bases. Steve McKenna’s second of three hits, a deep fly-ball single to left-center, scored Krol and Blake. (For the day, Westfield scored all seven of its runs with two outs.)
Westfield threatened in the fourth after Colin Burns doubled to left and was bunted to second, but a ground out and strikeout left him stranded at third.
Baker allowed six hits, struck out three and was responsible for all five Northampton runs. Krol relieved Baker in the fifth and gave up a double on his first pitch before settling in to shut down Northampton the rest of the way.

Westfield 4, Agawam 2
BULLENS FIELD, WESTFIELD – Agawam Post 185 had knocked Westfield Post 124 into the loser’s bracket five days ago at the start of the double-elimination American Legion playoffs, so it was only poetic that Post 124 knock Agawam out of the playoffs on Sunday.
In a testy rematch at Bullens Field, Post 124 scored early and never relinquished the lead, beating Agawam 4-2. The win moved Westfield into the bracket championship game against top-seeded Northampton, and sent Agawam home for the 2017 season. Post 185 opted to get a start on its off-season by skipping the traditional post-game handshake.
After two quick outs in the first, J.D. Huntley reached on an error and Stefan Krol singled. Jack Blke hit the first pitch he saw through the hole at second, scoring Huntley. Krol scored on Anthony Riga’s line drive to left.
In second, Westfield again scored with two outs. Matt Hastings was hit by a pitch and scored on three pitches. First he stole second. Next, he moved to third on a wild pitch. And finally he scored when the return throw from the catcher got away from the pitcher.
Westfield added one more run in the fifth, again with two outs. Krol doubled to left-center and scored when Blake blooped a single to left.
Adam Kearing gave up only three hits – the first coming on the game’s very first pitch – before giving way to Cam Niemiec for the save in the seventh.

Westfield 9, Northampton 7
Westfield pieced together a starting lineup from a depleted roster to hand No. 1 seed Northampton only its second loss in 21 games on Saturday night. Only hours after knocking out Greenfield, Post 124 scored five times in the sixth to erase a 7-4 Northampton lead.
Matt Hastings led off the sixth with a double and scored on the next pitch, a Jacob Colapietro double. J.D. Huntley singled and Colapietro scored on Stefan Krol’s fielder’s choice. Krol moved up on a pair of wild pitches before scoring on Adam Kearing’s single. Jacob Butler’s double scored Kearing, and Butler scored on a Nick Clegg single.
Westfield knocked around four Northampton pitchers for 13 hits and scored in the in the first, second, third and sixth.
Ari Schwartz and Cam Niemiec shared the mound for Westfield. Schwartz started and went 4.2 innings, allowing all seven of Northampton’s runs while striking out six. Niemiec got the final out of the fifth on three pitches, and allowed only two hits over the final two innings.
Hastings reached base four times for Westfield, with three hits and a walk, scoring twice. Krol had a pair of hits and scored twice. Anthony Riga and Nick Clegg both finished with two hits.

Westfield 3, Greenfield 2
Through five innings against Greenfield Post 81 on Saturday, Westfield Post 124 starter Stefan Krol had an easy no hitter going. Only two runners – both walks – had reached second base for Greenfield and in both instances Krol managed to get out trouble, usually with the help of one of his five strikeouts.
Krol then got himself in trouble in the bottom of the sixth, allowing three hits and throwing a wild pitch to help Greenfield tie the game 2-2.
In the seventh, however, Krol got himself back out of trouble and moved Westfield onto the next round of the American Legion double-elimination playoffs. With two outs in the inning, J.D. Huntley walked on a full count before Krol launched a double to right-center. Huntley scored all the way from first for the 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, fittingly, Krol finished off Greenfield himself, making the final out of a 1-2-3 inning on a come-backer to the mound.
Both teams came into the game facing elimination. Both teams also remembered that Greenfield had won a recent meeting between the two teams back in Westfield. But Krol would have nothing of history repeating itself.
He struck out the first batter he faced and retired the first six batters he faced. A lead-off walk in the bottom of the third was stranded at second to end the inning. Krol walked the leadoff hitter in the fourth, but the runner was wiped out on a fielder’s choice. Two walks in the middle of the fifth gave Greenfield runners at first and second with one out, but Krol struck out the next batter and induced a ground ball out to end the inning.
Westfield scored its first two runs in the sixth when Krol (him again!) reached on an error, moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a walk and infield error. He scored on Adam Kearing’s ground out to first. Jack Blake, who had walked after Krol, scored on the inning’s second error. – Courtesy of John Blake/Westfield Post 124

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