Hoosac Valley defeats Southwick to advance
By Neil Benjamin Jr., North Adams Transcript
Posted: 06/08/2010 07:04:01 AM EDT
When Zach Larabee doubled to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning, Hoosac Valley's center fielder knew he had to score.
He just was unsure how.
Thanks to a perfect sacrifice bunt by Nick Bourdon and line-drive double by Slayter Aubin, the Hurricanes (13-8) broke a scoreless tie, then plated three more runs to defeat Southwick 4-0 in the Western Massachusetts Division II semifinal Monday.
The date and time of Hoosac's semifinal game has not yet been announced, but should be in the coming days. The Hurricanes will face the winner of Palmer at Greenfield.
The runs came just in time, as Hurricane pitcher Justyn Tworig tossed a three-hit gem but wasn't getting any run support. Rams starter David Jones stifled the Hurricanes for five innings before Hoosac finally got on the board.
"That was small-ball," Larabee said. "We weren't hitting up to that point, so we had to find other ways to score."
Aubin was a bit more philosophical in his recount of the inning.
"I've been working with my dad all season on my hitting," he said. "I knew a ground ball or fly ball would get the run in, but I just saw my pitch and went with it. That's really all I can say about it."
After Larabee scored, Southwick's defense fell apart. Garrett Alibozek reached on an infield single, followed by Cody Morris reaching on an error when Rams shortstop Joe Kucienski bobbled the grounder, loading the bases. Robbie Burke reached on a fielder's choice, but Aubin was thrown out at home. Corey Meczywor reached on another Kucienski error, allowing Alibozek to score.
Fittingly, Tworig came to the plate. He took an off-speed pitch and lined it past second base, driving in two runs and giving him a four-run cushion for the final inning.
"My off-speed stuff, my change, was really good [Monday]," Tworig said. "My pitches were making it over the plate and I kept their bats guessing."
Hoosac's defense matched Tworig's effectiveness throughout. Second baseman Tanner Bird quickly put a stop to the Ram's rally try in the second inning. With Mike Ratchford on first, Nick Smith hit a grounder to Bird, who thought enough to tag Ratchford and throw to first to get the double play.
In the fourth inning, Bird made a fantastic leaping catch on a hard line drive hit by Jones which would have landed in the gap. Larabee made a few nice catches in the outfield, and the Hurricanes played what coach Bob Rivard called "the best defensive game of the season by far."
"Tanner did a great job at second for us," Rivard added. "The whole defense was solid. We had a nine-day layoff and I thought that would make us rusty, but we focused a lot on our defense in that time and it worked."
The errors commited by Kucienski marred an otherwise flawless defensive game on both sides. Southwick finishes the season at 13-9, but second-year coach Tim Karetka was pleased with his team's effort and had high praise for the Hurricanes.
"[Hoosac] put the ball in the right places," he said. "It's a bittersweet end for us because we started the season 0-3 and were outscored 33-3 over those games.
"But Hoosac has a great shot at winning it all, absolutely. They didn't make any mistakes, and that's what good teams do."
Aside from the three hits Tworig gave up, he walked just one and struck out seven, showing the flashes of brilliance he featured in 2009.
In the second inning, Robbie Burke almost got Hoosac on the board. With Alibozek on first, Burke hit a towering fly ball to left field. It appeared as if it was going to leave the yard, but Rams left fielder Anthony Falcetti made a diving catch over the wall to rob Burke. Burke finished with a double, but Alibozek led the team with two singles.
Aubin finished the day 1 for 2 with a hit by pitch, but after the game he was raving about how well his squad just played. Though Hoosac had 12 wins in the regular season, most on the team agree the Hurricanes were too inconsistent.
"If we play like this, no mistakes, then we can win it all," Aubin said. "It's so important. We haven't played many games without mental errors all season. It helps our confidence going forward."
Rivard had advice for his squad going into the semifinal round. It's the same thing he's been telling the players throughout the year.
"As long as we don't give other teams extra outs, we'll be fine," he said. "When we make errors, teams get extra men on base, and that makes it harder for the pitcher and the defense."