ITI squares off with Batter’s Box, emerges victorious

ITI’s Ethan Connors (4) slides safely into home plate against Batter’s Box in a Greater Westfield Babe Ruth Baseball League game Tuesday night at Bullens Field. (MARC ST.ONGE / THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD – Two days into the long-awaited Greater Westfield Babe Ruth Baseball season and the league has its second unbeaten squad – ITI.
ITI built an early 3-0 lead, maintained a 3-run advantage throughout much of the game, and cruised to a 9-5 win over Batter’s Box Tuesday night at Bullens Field.
ITI raced out to an early 1-0 lead behind the blazing fast speed of Dylan King, who hit a lead-off single to begin the game, stole second base with Flash-like speed and scored on a Ryan LaPoint single.
“Not many people are able to do stuff right now but … we worked hard this offseason,” LaPoint said. “Now we’re getting out here and showing it.”
ITI loaded the bases with consecutive walks from Jay Scherpa and Bryan Bolio before Batter’s Box starting pitcher Connor Niemic bounced back with two consecutive strikeouts and a ground out to end the threat.
ITI kept swinging the bat and putting the ball in play, producing more runs.
In the bottom of the second, Paul Lawry singled and stole second base. Aiden Poirier walked. Ethan Connors reached on a fielding error. Evan Mastroianni put the ball in play, resulting in a force out at home plate. The catcher attempted to double up Mastroianni at first base but Poirier came home. Some additional sloppy infield play led to a third ITI run.
ITI benefited from the pitching of Nicholas Lenfest in his two innings on the mound. Lenfest mixed up his pitches and kept batter’s off balance, striking out the first two Batter’s Box batters to begin the game and finished with three K’s and one hit allowed through two innings of work.
“It feels amazing because we waited so long for this,” Lenfest said. “It’s spectacular because our season would have been over by now.”
The start of the Greater Babe Ruth Baseball League was delayed due to coronavirus concerns, but with COVID-related cases extremely low in the northeast following strict social distancing guidelines health officials gave the greenlight for local teams to begin play.
The two teams attempted to make every play count.
In the third, Batter’s Box rallied. Riley Heeter smacked a lead-off single. Cam Lisowski doubled off ITI’s reliever. A one-out, run-scoring fielder’s choice made it 3-1. A line drive single from Noah Gardner made it 3-2.
ITI reclaimed its three-run lead with two more runs in the third. LaPoint and Scherpa hit back-to-back singles. On the second base knock, fielding errors from Batter’s Box led to an unearned run. A pair of errors on the next ball put in play led to another run.
Scherpa settled down on the mound in the fourth, recording a 1-2-3 inning, one by way of the strikeout.
“It felt a little shaky there at times,” Scherpa admitted, “but it’s just the first game. We will get into it. …We have a good squad here.”
Lisowski, who took the mound in relief with two outs in the second, also settled into a groove midway through the game, retiring six of seven batters over the third and fourth innings with only an error in the outfield – – more like a gapper that grazed the outfielder’s glove in left-center field – – breaking up the streak.
ITI broke open the game in the fifth inning. Four consecutive walks, a wild pitch, and a two-run double from Colby LaPoint increased the lead to 9-2.
Errors, walks, and a wild pitch allowed Batter’s Box to score three more runs in the sixth to pull within 9-5.
At the game’s end, rather than shaking hands with the opposing teams, players stood on the base lines and tipped their caps to each other.
“It’s a little weird not being able to shake hands – it’s what you do in every sport – but tip of the hat isn’t too bad at the end of the game, and splitting up the benches,” Scherpa said. “It could be worse – – we could not even be here. We’re lucky we can do this.”
Next up: Cortina Tile battles Berkshire Insurance in the two teams’ respective league opener Thursday night at Bullens Field at 6.

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