WESTFIELD – It was a strange Babe Ruth Baseball 14-Year-Old All-Stars state championship game Saturday morning at Bullens Field. And no, unfortunately for Westfield, the “W” did not go to their ace, Brian.
Pittsfield took advantage of some Westfield wildness on defense and put together some timely hits en route to beating Westfield 5-2, and claiming the state title.
Early on, the challenge presented itself to the Whip City’s great group of 14-year-old ball players. In time, they responded.
Westfield was in danger of stranding three base runners and coming away with no runs through the first two innings, but Niko Kapsanis turned on a two-out, 3-2 pitch in the second inning, driving it to center field for a 1-0 lead. Brody Zabielski extended the inning with a bloop single to left field. An error on the third baseman made it 2-0.
Westfield also threatened earlier in the first inning when Paul Shibley smacked a lead-off line drive single up the middle. Shibley was gunned down trying to steal though.
Pittsfield stranded a base runner of its own in the first inning. Anton Lazits drove a double to deep left field with two outs, but starter Brian Strange came back to strike out the No. 4 batter Christian Marchbank.
In the second inning, Pittsfield cut the lead in half.
Caden Frazier got things started for Pittsfield in the second with a single through the right side. A stolen base, a Leo Arnee single, and a catcher error resulted in the team’s first run.
Pittsfield threatened again in the third, putting runners at second and third but a strikeout from Strange ended the inning.
Westfield threatened in the top of the fourth.
In the fourth, Raphael Morganelli and Kapsanis hit consecutive one-out singles, knocking Pittsfield starter Frazier from the mound. Frazier was lifted for reliever Marchbank. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, but Marchbank came back to force a ground out to end the inning.
In a somewhat bizarre half inning later, Pittsfield rallied.
Arnee walked to begin the fourth. Pinch runner Wayne Moore stole second base, advanced on an error and scored on a wild pitch. With two outs, Jake Risley walked. Mike Mansfield bunted for a single. An error on a pickoff throw by the catcher resulted in the go-ahead run.
The weirdness, or rather the long lost art of small ball, continued in the fifth.
Marchbank led off the fifth inning with a double, and advanced on a ground out. Kyle McDonald followed with a successful suicide squeeze to take a two-run advantage.
Westfield flirted with the game-tying and potential go-ahead runs in the sixth when David Tirrell singled and Kapsanis walked, but reliever Lazits came back to force a third out on a grounder.
Pittsfield tacked on an insurance run in the sixth with some more small ball. Eddie Mullin came off the bench to draw a lead-off walk. Sub Heyward Eurquhart laid down a sac-bunt. Risley singled. A delayed double steal made it 5-2.
Strange finished a solid outing on the mound, allowing six hits with eight strikeouts, and three runs (two earned) through five complete innings.