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Post 81 stays alive with 6-4 win

GREENFIELD — Righthander Tyler Charboneau gave Greenfield Post 81 exactly what it needed on the mound and the bats finally came through in the fifth inning as Post 81 remained alive to play another day with a 6-4 victory over Ludlow Post 52 in the American Legion Intrastate Playoff losers’-bracket game Monday evening at Veterans Memorial Field.

Ludlow is eliminated from postseason contention with the loss. Greenfield advances in the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament and will now play Palmer (which lost to Leominster 3-1 Monday) this evening in a game to be played at McLaughlin Park in Leominster. The team must travel because Greenfield doesn’t have lights with construction under way at the high school. Greenfield will take on Palmer at 5 p.m. and the winner of that game will immediately play Leominster in the championship game scheduled to start 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. If Greenfield could sweep tonight, it would host the winner-take-all championship game Wednesday.

But that’s a long way away for a Post 81 team struggling to field enough pitchers to get it through this brutal stretch of games. Garrett Hudson (today’s starter against Palmer) has pitched all season, as has Mike Duclos, who pitched in Sunday’s 4-0 loss to Palmer. Charboneau, who pitched for Turners Falls High School this year but was down the list of Legion pitchers coming into this season, has been thrust into the No. 3 role due to injuries and players leaving the team. He responded by taking the ball against Ludlow and firing six-plus innings of five-hit ball, allowing four runs (two earned) with four strikeouts and four walks. Hudson came on with runners on first and second in the seventh, but got a double play on a botched bunt before striking out Kevin Borowiec to end the game.

“I haven’t thrown a lot this year for Legion but coach said I was throwing and I was ready to go,” Charboneau said. “I gave it all I had. I didn’t feel like I had as much velocity as I did during the varsity season ... but I was happy to get the opportunity.”

After the teams went back-and-forth on the scoreboard for the first four innings of play, Greenfield finally broke things open in the bottom of the fifth, when the bats finally came to life with runners in scoring position. In Sunday’s 4-0 loss to Palmer, Greenfield went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, and the team was again finding it tough to plate runners in scoring position early against Ludlow. Greenfield put runners on the corners in the third inning with nobody out and the No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters due up but failed to get a run across in the frame. That all changed in the fifth, with Greenfield trailing 3-2, as Niko Ames led off with a walk and went to second when Tanner Jillson grounded back to Ludlow pitcher Ben Gamache, who threw the ball wide of second base for an error. That brought up No. 3 hitter Hudson, who was mired in an 0-for-5 mini-slump. In the hole with two strikes on him, Hudson sent a single between third and short to load the bases.

Greenfield’s hottest hitter of late, Tom Malooly, then came to the plate with four hits in his last five plate appearances, but things did not start out well for him during his at-bat, falling behind Gamache 1-2 on three straight curve balls. Gamache went back to the well one time too many and Malooly sent the ball back up the middle for a two-run single that put Greenfield up 4-3.

“He threw me the breaking ball three times and I kind of was expecting it,” Malooly said. “If not, I wanted to be behind it and go to right field with it because I try to shorten up with two strikes. Because I had seen it so many times already, I pretty much saw it coming, saw it out of his hand, and just shortened up.”

The hitting parade did not stop there. Charboneau followed Malooly by helping himself out when he sent a two-strike pitch to right field for an RBI single. Liam Datres de la Blotier plated the final run of the inning when he hit into a double play to bring in Malooly from third.

“Having five hits yesterday, it’s hard to score that way,” Malooly said. “We had some two-out situations where we didn’t get RBIs. That’s one of the big factors to winning a game, is how many two-out RBIs can your team get and we just didn’t come through in big situations. Today, we came through with a lot of runners in scoring position and it’s a big reason why we won the game.”

Ludlow jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when John Bortorlucci reached on a one-out error and scored on an RBI single by Nick Frost. Greenfield responded in the second inning with two runs, as Malooly led off with a single and went to third when Charboneau reached on an error. Both runners came around to score on Mark Buck’s two-run double to right-center. Ludlow came back with two runs in the fifth to go up 3-2 as Brett Laymen walked, stole second and scored when Zack Frangules singled. Frangules would go on to steal a base and later scored on a ground out by Borowiec.

Gamache finished with five strikeouts and two walks in six innings for Ludlow.

Greenfield finished with 10 hits on the night. Ames finished 2-for-3 with a double, while Jillson and Malooly each chipped in a pair of hits.

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