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Post 81 rules opener, 7-2

Ludlow baserunner Tyler Quiterio is safe at second base as Greenfield shortstop Niko Ames braces for the one-hop throw from first on a play that began with Ames' overthrow of first on a ground ball Wednesday night at Veteran's Field in Greenfield. Host Post 81 won the opener of their WMass Double-Elimination American Legion Baseball Tournament. Pictured in the background is Greenfield second baseman Brody Markol.
Recorder/Micky Bedell

Ludlow baserunner Tyler Quiterio is safe at second base as Greenfield shortstop Niko Ames braces for the one-hop throw from first on a play that began with Ames' overthrow of first on a ground ball Wednesday night at Veteran's Field in Greenfield. Host Post 81 won the opener of their WMass Double-Elimination American Legion Baseball Tournament. Pictured in the background is Greenfield second baseman Brody Markol. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Post 81 is off and running in the third round of the Western Massachusetts American Legion Baseball Tournament.

Fourth-seeded Post 81 got seven solid innings out of starting pitcher Ben Ruddock, a solid all-around defensive effort, and picked up timely hits up and down the lineup en route to a 7-2 victory over fifth-seeded Ludlow Post 52 in the opener of the double-elimination tournament at Veterans Memorial Field.

The third round of the tournament features eight teams split into two, four-team, double-elimination brackets. The winners of each bracket will meet in a best two-out-of-three WMass championship series next week. The other part of the bracket is still cloudy because the second-round game between Amherst and Springfield was halted in the fourth inning Monday night due to rain and has not been completed. Those two teams will finish that game tonight and the winner will head to Szot Park in Chicopee, where it’ll take on top-seed Aldenville. Greenfield will take on the winner of that game on Friday, either at Szot Park (should Aldenville win tonight) or at Vets Field (should the Amherst/Springfield winner defeat Aldenville tonight). Ludlow will take on the loser of that game in an elimination game on Friday.

Ruddock got the ball in the opener and responded with seven innings of five-hit ball, allowing just two hits and no runs over the first six innings as Post 81 built a 7-0 lead. Ludlow managed three hits and two runs in the seventh but Ruddock struck out Kevin Borowiec looking to put an end to things. Ruddock allowed a one-out walk to Borowiec in the third inning but he was erased on a double-play to end the inning, which started a string of eight consecutive outs in the middle innings until Ludlow No. 9 hitter John Borotolucci laid down a harmless bunt to lead off the sixth but it never amounted to anything. Ruddock, who finished with four strikeouts and three walks, said as he loosened up he had more life on his fastball and his off-speed pitches got stronger.

“I started warming up and my off-speed stuff was better, which makes my fastball seem faster,” he explained. “I just got stronger and stronger and had my pitches hitting more spots. I got out of a couple jams and my fielders did a good job making plays behind me to get me out of those jams.”

Post 81’s Achilles heel this season has been the defense, which committed eight errors on June 23 when Ludlow beat Greenfield, 8-3, in the only regular-season meeting between the teams. Greenfield (15-4) has had numerous multiple-error games this season, but with just two errors on Wednesday (including one on an errant pickoff throw), the team got off to a clean postseason start.

“Pitching to contact is how you win a lot of games and it helps keep your pitch count down,” Ruddock said. “It’s a good feeling to know that the defense has your back.”

Ruddock also got plenty of run support beginning in the third inning. Ludlow starter Dylan Presnal set down the Post 81 side in order in each of the first two innings and seemed to be cruising before Andrew Doty led off the third inning with a sharp ground ball that hit the third-base bag and rolled down the left-field line for a double. He then went to third when Jourdan York-Welcome put on a bunting display when he managed to lay down a bunt on a fastball that appeared to nearly hit him. The catcher tried to get Doty at third but the throw was high and Doty slid in safe. He then scored when Jake Elwell lifted a sac fly to left field.

That was far from the end of the inning. After a Mark Buck walk moved York-Welcome to second, Niko Ames laid down a bunt up the third-base line and had the play beat, but Presnal fielded the ball and made an ill-advised throw to first that eluded first-baseman Logan Schinabeck and wound up deep in foul territory in right field but remained in play. That allowed both York-Welcome and Buck to score while Ames made it all the way to third before coming around to score on a single up the middle by Liam Datres de la Blotier for a 4-0 advantage.

Post 81 tacked on a fifth run in the fifth inning when Ames singled and scored on an RBI single by Luke Bakker. The final two runs for Post 81 came in the sixth when York-Welcome and Buck walked to put runners on first and second. Ames then hit a two-out grounder to second that appeared to be the final out of the inning, but Buck, in a heads-up play, jumped over the ball as he ran to second, which caused Ludlow second baseman Zac Frangules to bobble it. As he ate the ball in disgust, York-Welcome never stopped running and scored all the way from second base. Buck then came around to score the final run on Datres de la Blotier’s second RBI single of the game, this one a liner to left-center. Datres de la Blotier finished with three hits, while Ames added two hits.

“Offensively, we struggled a couple of games ago, but since then we’ve been scoring some runs,” Doty said. “We’ve run-ruled the last two teams before tonight. It’s been pretty good.”

Ludlow (14-6) scored twice in the seventh inning as Alex Lafayette and Presnal led off with singles to get things started. Schinabeck drove in one run on a groundout to second, and Chris Charest plated the second run on a single to center. Ruddock got out of the jam and stranded a pair of runners to end the game.

Greenfield will have a practice day today before going back to work on Friday.

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