Saturday, June 9, 2012
D1 West Final: Westfield 2, Minnechaug 1
By Ben Larsen
CHICOPEE, Mass. -- Above all else, resiliency is what matters most. Forget the plus-fastball, 12-6 deuce or the ability to pull the string when changing speeds.
Sure, it can't hurt a pitcher to carry those attributes in his toolbox, but, above all else, resiliency is the key.
Westfield's Lee Albertson proved that much time and again Saturday in the Bombers' 2-1 Western Mass. Division 1 Final win over Minnechaug at Szot Park.
Albertson and his calm demeanor sliced and diced the No. 2 Falcons throughout a complete-game, two-hit, 13-strikeout performance. But it wasn't as easy as the box score might indicate.
Albertson battled out of four separate jams with Minnechaug runners in scoring position to limit the defending sectional champions to just one fifth-inning run.
"He made a point at practice to let me know he was ready for today," said Westfield head coach Rich Discenza, whose Bombers improved to 19-4 on the season and await the Central Mass. champion for Tuesday's Division I State Semifinal (7 p.m. Szot Park).
Albertson's escapability showed best in the fifth inning, incidentally, when Minnechaug was able to puncture his armor.
After Westfield went ahead 2-0, Minnechaug followed in their half of the fifth with a very similar stanza. Albertson retired the leadoff hitter, but hit Joe Snopek to put a runner on. After another strikeout, the wheels came off the track for the typically-grounded Albertson. He walked two batters and saw Kevin Baker's seeing-eye single plate Minnechaug's first run. He would get out of the jam quickly, though, avoid further damage.
The scoring action started in the top of the fifth with Westfield's Aris Laurencuent getting hit by a Bryan Goossens fastball. That would be the start of the Bombers' rally.
Ethan Atkocaitis followed with a sharp single to right field. Kyle Murphy then laced a liner to deep centerfield that was caught but deep enough to plate Jake Toomey --- who was pinch-running for Aris Laurencuent. Atkocaitis then scored on a passed ball.
The Little Things: A look at the Westfield roster won't raise any major eyebrows. There are good players and solid statistics but there aren't any 'superstars'.
None of that matters, though, to the 2012 Western Mass. Champions.
"It's a team-oriented thing," said catcher Evan Moorhouse. "We all know what we have to do. "We're going to go out there and play for each other and that's a huge thing."
Westfield's own "Bomber Ball" was on display in their two-run fifth inning. There was only one hit in the inning --- a Conner Laraway single --- yet Westfield was able to plate just enough offense.
With the bases loaded, Murphy saw the situation and acted accordingly with one out, getting the ball to the outfield to plate Jake Toomey from third with a sacrifice fly. And the Bombers capitalized on a mental error by Minnechaug pitcher Bryan Goossens to score their second run.
Tough Luck Loser: As memorable as Albertson's performance was, Minnechaug's Goossens matched him throughout.
The Siena-bound senior scattered just five hits and allowed just the one earned run. Like his counterpart, Goossens also managed to battle through numerous tough jams to keep it tight.
He was at his best in the top of the seventh inning. After allowing back-to-back hits to start the inning, he settled down and retired Westfield's top three batters in order to give Minnechaug one last chance at the plate.