Greenfield sent packing, 4-3
Jacob Elwell too late with tag
This triple-exposure photo shows Greenfield senior righty Garrett Hudson, who will be one of, if not the top pitcher in the Hampshire League this season. At times, some of his stuff may take on this appearance to batters trying to get a piece as the ball darts or drops or soars through the a part of the strike zone.
Andrew Barisano is out in a pickle betweeen 3 and home.
Junior Kevin Luippold moves over to shorstop this season for Greenfield High School.
Kuke Toritto lays down a RBI bunt that he beat to first.
Toritto gets run down in 2nd pickle of single play
SPRINGFIELD — Greenfield High School came up one hit short on Wednesday.
With the tying run standing 90 feet away for the Green Wave, Auburn High School relief pitcher Tyler LaMonda struck out Greenfield cleanup hitter Mike Duclos for the final out of the game, and Auburn advanced to the Division II baseball state championship game with a 4-3 victory over Greenfield in a state semifinal at Pat Ricci Field on the campus of Western New England University.
Central Mass. champion Auburn (20-4) scored twice in the top of the sixth inning to snap a 2-2 tie, as it finally strung some hits together against Green Wave starter Duclos. Greenfield (19-5) came back with a run in the bottom of the sixth courtesy of Luke Toritto’s second RBI single of the game, scoring Zach Bartak, and the western Mass. champion Green Wave got a chance to send the game to extra innings in the seventh.
No. 9 hitter Parker Hickey led off with a single past the shortstop to greet LaMonda, who took over for starter Mike Vaitkunas to begin the seventh, and moved to second on Jake Elwell’s sacrifice bunt. Hickey went to third when Garrett Hudson grounded back to the mound for the second out of the inning, and Zach Bartak walked to put runners on the corners. To that point in the inning, LaMonda had started every batter out with two straight strikes to get way ahead in the count, and he would do the same to Duclos during the final at-bat of the game. Duclos took one ball and fouled off a pitch before LaMonda got him on a curveball to end the game and the Green Wave’s season.
“I wish it turned out differently,” Duclos said after the game. “But getting a chance to play in a state semifinal game is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Auburn, now in the Division II state championship for the third time in six years, will take on Eastern Mass. champion Hingham High School Saturday at LeLacheur Park in Lowell. Wednesday’s loss snaps the Green Wave’s three-game winning streak in state semifinal games. The last time Greenfield lost in a state semifinal was in 1981, when it dropped a 5-4 decision to Shepherd Hill Regional High School. Greenfield would go on to win state semifinal appearances in 1984, 1988 and 1992, but lost in the state championship game in each of those seasons.
One thing the Green Wave may look back on was some costly base-running blunders in the game, particularly a pair in the second inning that took them out of what could have been a big inning. Auburn led 1-0 after Vaitkunas’ RBI single in the top of the first inning, but Greenfield was threatening as Duclos and Drew Barisano led off the bottom of the second with back-to-back singles. That brought Toritto to the plate, and he laid a perfectly-placed bunt down the first-base line, allowing him to reach. On the play, Auburn left the plate uncovered, and Duclos rounded third and scored without a throw to tie the game.
That left runners on first and second with none out, and Kevin Luippold moved both runners up a base with a groundout to first. That brought Jourdan York-Welcome to the plate, and Wave head coach Tom Suchanek put on a suicide squeeze bunt play. York-Welcome was unable to make contact on the bunt try, and with Barisano running before the pitch, he got hung up between third and home and was eventually tagged out in a rundown. Just as Barisano was retired, Toritto broke from second to try to reach third, but he was easily caught in a rundown and also tagged out to end the inning. As fate would have it, York-Welcome opened the third with a line-drive single to right.
“We just didn’t execute it very well,” Suchanek said of the call after the game. “To be honest with you, it’s probably the first time we tried the squeeze all year. I mean, we practice it a lot, but it didn’t work. And our other runner should have either stayed or certainly committed a lot earlier.”
Greenfield would also lose another runner on the base paths when Luippold was thrown out trying to go from first to second on an overthrow in the fourth. Auburn would use the momentum from that to tie the score in the top of the fifth, as LaMonda singled, stole second and later scored on a wild pitch by Duclos to make it 2-2. The Rockets then broke on top to stay in the sixth. Vaitkunas got the go-ahead rally started with a single between third and short and DJ Scavone followed with a liner between first and second to put runners on the corners with none out. Duclos got the first out of the inning without any damage when Zack Tower grounded to third, but at that point Auburn took a page out of the Wave’s playbook when it attempted a suicide squeeze with Drew Goodrich at the plate. Goodrich got the bunt down and he wound up reaching on the play as Vaitkunas scored for a 3-2 lead. John Kewley then grounded to first and Scavone slid home for a 4-2 Rockets lead.
Duclos finished with four strikeouts and one walk in the loss — the final start of his high school career. Ironically, he will be teammates with Vaitkunas next season when both play baseball at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Toritto, a senior, finished with three hits and two RBIs to lead the Wave’s offense.
“It was awesome,” Toritto said of the experience in his final game. “When I look back I’m going to be happy with the season. Obviously right now, I’m not too happy, but we left everything out there. This was a great group, a fun year. I think I’m more upset because this is over, baseball is over for me. But these guys have been awesome and this has been one of the most fun teams I’ve ever been a part of.”
Vaitkunas finished with four strikeouts and no walks to earn the win for Auburn.