AGAWAM, Mass. -- From a talent and leadership standpoint, Springfield Cathedral has right intangibles to qualify for the inaugural Super 8 baseball tournament. But sometimes that isn't enough.
The Panthers know they are one of a handful of teams in Western Mass. that could receive an invite come June. How they perform over the next several weeks will be the deciding factor.
Outlasting Valley League and defending WMass. champion Agawam 15-8 on Monday will certainly help that cause. In a game which lasted a little more than three hours, Cathedral (4-1 and winners of three straight) took full-advantage of a Brownies pitching staff that literally imploded.
Griffin Gadreault, Cam Rivest, Anthony Donahue, Luke Rheault and William Wysocki combined to allow nine hits, walk 10, plunk three batters and issue five wild pitches in a game all would like to forget. On top of it, their defense also let them down, committing seven errors on the afternoon.
The Panthers held a 4-3 lead through five innings before erupting for 10 runs in the sixth. To Agawam's credit, it did not go down easily, putting up five runs in the bottom of the frame. But the hole the Brownies dug for themselves was too deep to climb out of.
Cathedral's deciding sixth came benefit of 3 hits a pair of errors and 3 wild pitches which plated 3 of the 10 runs.
"We waited them out a little bit," Cathedral head coach Pat Moriarty said. "They had some chances early that they didn't capitalize on and we were able to capitalize late. We're happy with this outcome and played a pretty-complete game today. We have a lot respect for Agawam and we didn't feel this game was over until the last out."
The Panther sixth began with DJ Petruzzelli walking, stealing second and moving on to third on catcher Connor Sheehan's throwing error. With the infield in all around, Nate Jurkowski ripped a hard-grounder off the glove of second baseman Troy Gallerani's glove to put Cathedral ahead 5-3.
Things would snowball from there. With runners at the corners, Jurkowski came home on a Rivest wild pitch. UMass-bound senior catcher Andrew Noonan reached on an infield single and swiped second putting two in scoring position. After Peter Crinella was struck by a pitch, the Panthers now had the bases full. Another wild pitch produced Cathedral's sixth run.
Another walk was followed by another wild pitch to score Noonan. Two batters later, Kevin Hassett lined an RBI single off of Donahue. A walk to Petruzzelli brought Rheault to the mound. After whiffing Josh Wyzik for the second out, Rheault, still with the bases loaded, then proceeded to walk Jurkowski, Matt Cieboter and Noonan in succession to make it 14-3.
The Brownies (1-2) refused to go down without a fight however. Against reliever Jurkowski, who came on in relief of Crinella to open the fifth, Agawam got to the senior in its half of the sixth. Run scoring singles by Rivest, Wysocki, Nick Destefano, a double by URI commit Seamus Curran (2 hits) and a RBI ground out by Anthony Ingham helped to make this contest a bit more respectable.
Moriarty brought in Manny Alvarado late in the inning and the senior was able to shut the door the rest of the way. The Panthers added a solo run in the seventh on a SAC fly from Petruzzelli.
"We're playing a lot better and are starting to rise to the occasion," Moriarty said. "I'm happy where we are at right now. We've been working on staying focused in games like this. I think that went a long way for us today. I felt we were focused throughout and played pretty-good defense as well."
Agawam (1-2) grabbed a 2-0 lead in its half of the first against Crinella thanks to a two-run double by Ingham (2 hits, 3 RBI). But the Panthers would chip away at the deficit, scoring a solo run in the second on Jurkowski's run-scoring single and tied it one inning later on Alvardo's hard single down the left field line.
"We got the bats going," said Jurkowski. "We have great hitters and great depth on this team. We just use what we got and continue to play how we know how to play we'll be fine. We know what we are looking for and know how to pounce on the type of pitchers we are looking for. We just need to keep the momentum going. It's all about hard work but it comes down the guys who grind it out, want to work hard at practice and want to be there."