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Post 81 reaches end of road, 4-3

SUDBURY — Baseball is a game of inches and, on Thursday, the closest of plays just did not go the way of Greenfield Post 81.

Brody Markol had what appeared to be a double taken away from him in the ninth inning and Greenfield’s attempt to rally from two runs down in the final frame came up just short as the tying run was left stranded 90 feet from home plate in a 4-3 loss to Newburyport Post 150 that brought Post 81’s season to an end with a 4-3 loss at the American Legion Baseball State Tournament at Frank Feeley Field.

Greenfield was one of the final four teams left in the eight-team, double-elimination state tourney, finishing the season at 21-6.

Greenfield trailed from the first inning on but appeared to have a season-saving rally left in it when it entered the top of the ninth inning trailing 4-2. Sam Downes led off and had an epic at-bat, falling behind 0-2 after a pair of change-ups from Newburyport fireballer Joe Levasseur. Downes then spoiled four more strikes by fouling them off and ran the count to 2-2 before lining a single to right-center to get the rally started. That brought up Brody Markol, who belted a 1-1 offering to deep left that appeared to drop just inside the line. Newburyport left fielder Cam Toohey played the ball quickly as though it was fair and nearly everyone in the park reacted as though it hit inside the line. Everybody, that is, except for the home plate umpire, who called the ball foul and incited the Post 81 bench and its large contingent of supporters who had travelled nearly two-hour trip east from Franklin County. Markol then swung and missed at the next pitch for the first out of the inning. That turned out to be huge when Andrew Doty laced a double over the first-base bag that would have easily scored Downes and Markol had the two been in scoring position. Instead, Downes moved to third on the play. Jourdan York-Welcome followed by grounding out to first to get the third Post 81 run of the game home and move Doty to third. Jake Elwell then came up and grounded to short. There was yet more controversy on the play when the throw to first pulled first baseman Ryan Kuchar off the bag, but the first-base umpire deemed that he held his foot on as he made the catch before falling off, and Elwell was called out to end the game.

“It’s unfortunate,” Greenfield coach Tim Capuano said of the Markol near-double. “A couple of calls didn’t go our way today, but then, a couple of calls didn’t go their way. It’s baseball. You can’t get too frustrated. It’s how you deal with it and overcome it, and I thought our guys did a good job of overcoming some tough calls today.”

Greenfield found itself in numerous tough spots throughout the game as Newburyport racked up 10 total hits, including eight against Greenfield starter Tyler Charboneau. The controversy started right away in the bottom of the first inning when Tyler Chaisson led off with a double and went to third on Rossario Missiti’s single. Colton Fontaine then lifted a sacrifice fly to right field and Chaisson raced home on the play. The Greenfield bench hollered that Chaisson had left the bag early, but the appeal to third came up empty and Newburyport had a 1-0 lead. Charboneau came back to get out of the inning without any further damage with the help of his defense, as third baseman Luke Bakker fielded a ground ball by No. 4 hitter Dan Rose and fired home to cut down Missiti.

Newburyport had chances to score in the second and third innings but Charboneau battled through it and again got some defensive help. In the third inning, with one man aboard, Toohey lined a shot toward third that Bakker dove to snared on a nice play. He landed on his feet and had the presence of mind to throw over to first to double-off the runner and turn the inning-ending double play.

Greenfield tied the game in the top of the fourth, when it finally got to Post 150 lefty starter Connor Macrae, who had not allowed a hit to that point. Liam Datres de la Blotier reached with one out when he grounded to short but the throw from shortstop Justin Cashman was low. He then moved to second when Bakker got the first hit of the game, a single between third and short. Downes came up and grounded to second, and the throw to Cashman covering second got the first out of the would-be double play, but again Cashman made a poor throw to first and the ball got away, allowing Datres de la Blotier to come around and score.

Newburyport got the run right back in the bottom of the inning when Ryan Kuchar grounded to short with runners on second and third and one out. The throw from Greenfield shortstop Niko Ames came home but was low and got past Greenfield catcher Elwell, rolling to the backstop. Colby Ingraham, who had singled earlier in the inning, scored on the play, but when Bob Barry tried to score from second, Elwell threw a perfect strike to Charboneau covering the plate, and the pitcher got the tag down on Barry for the second out, helping him escape further damage.

Newburyport added two more runs in the fifth inning, when again there was controversy, this time when Missiti blooped a hit to short left that dropped in as Ames tried to make a diving catch. The ball rolled away from Ames but the relay into second appeared to cut down Missiti, who was trying to stretch the single. Markol applied the tag but the umpire ruled that Missiti got his hand in ahead of it and was called safe. He we come around to score later on a two-run single by Rose.

Greenfield did not go away and made it a 4-2 game in the sixth when Ames singled and went to third on a double by Datres de la Blotier. Bakker grounded out to second to score Ames, but Greenfield did no further damage, as Downes struck out and Markol flew out to left.

Charboneau took the loss, striking out none while allowing eight hits and four walks in four innings that he gutted out to keep things close. Nick York pitched three scoreless innings of relief, including entering the game in the fifth with two on and nobody out to set down three straight batters. York finished with one strikeout and one walk. Downes pitched a scoreless eighth inning, striking out one in his final appearance with the team after three years.

Macrae earned the win, striking out three and walking three in seven innings. Levasseur picked up the save, striking out one and walking none in two innings.

Post 81 will return all but four players next season, and should have the tools to make another run to the state tournament.

“Unfortunately, we came up just short today,” Downes concluded. “But we really came together as a team this year. Making it to the top four in the state is no small feat, and losing just six games this year was unbelievable.”

Getting to the final four of the state tournament was a terrific showing for this team. They should have had the opportunity to play one more game but winning two games against teams from larger areas and almost making the finals was a tremendous run. Driving back and forth to Sudbury may have been tiring but these kids left it all on the field. They were a pleasure to watch and the town should honor their, and the Junior Legion's efforts.

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