Tuesday, August 05, 2014
GREENFIELD — Only one team shut out the Smith Academy baseball team during the regular season.
The Falcons faced Turners Falls again Thursday night, and their postseason run met the same fate in a 3-0 Western Massachusetts Division 4 semifinal loss at Veteran’s Field.
“This is a big disappointment,” Smith coach Jeff Pluta said. “We expected to be playing on Saturday, and we expected to win Western Mass.”
Starter Quinn Doyle and reliever Tyler Charboneau combined on a four-hitter with eight strikeouts. Charboneau fanned five in the final two innings.
Despite just four hits, the Falcons stranded 12 runners. Despite giving up only five hits, Smith’s pitchers were hurt by three key wild pitches in the decisive inning.
“You have to give Turners credit, they’ve stranded a ton of runners all season,” Pluta said. “The last time we played them I think we left 12, six in scoring position. They let you get on base and then shut you down. But we’ve had a lot of late comebacks this year, so we felt fine even down 3-0.”
Smith sophomore starter Kevin Banas struck out nine over 42/3 innings but suffered the loss, giving up three earned runs.
“Kevin had a phenomenal performance,” Pluta said. “He gave us every chance to win the game. He’s thrown like that all year, commanding different pitches.”
No. 5 Turners (12-11) will play No. 3 Hopkins Academy (12-9) for the title Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at UMass. The teams split a pair of regular-season meetings.
The Indians plated all three runs in the top of the fifth. With one out, Emmett Turn hit a topper toward third. David Longstreeth fielded the ball barehanded but couldn’t get the speedy Turn, who then took second on a wild pitch.
After Marcel Ortiz lined out to short, Banas walked Brody Markol intentionally to set up cleanup hitter Charboneau. The left-handed swinger lined a hit into left-center to bring around Turn.
“That was a nice job of hitting by him,” Banas said. “I saw he was a bit off the plate, so I thought I could put an outside fastball by him.”
Banas was lifted for Longstreeth, who uncorked a pair of wild pitches to allow two more runners to score.
The Falcons’ best chance came in the bottom of the sixth when they loaded the bases with nobody out on a walk, a single and an error.
The crafty lefty Doyle was then lifted in favor of righty Charboneau, who struck out the next three batters to retire the side.
“I don’t think it was the speed as much as he was really hitting the corners,” Banas said. “In my at-bat, I was surprised by how well he was hitting his spots.”
Pluta said, “With bases loaded and no outs, you have to score something. We just didn’t hit with guys in scoring position. And some of those at-bats were just unlucky. That’s baseball.”
Smith put a man on with one down in the seventh, but couldn’t get the tying run to the plate.
The Falcons put their first two on with nobody out in the second, and had two on with one down in both the third and fourth.
“For some reason, we struggled with lefties all year, just like (in a first-round win) against St. Joe’s,” Pluta said. “The first time through the lineup (against Doyle), I think we were a little anxious, then we settled down. But they went to (Charboneau), who by comparison was throwing smoke.”
Keith Natale singled, doubled and reached base three times. Jojo Afflitto and Austin Rogers each added singles for Smith.
Banas projects as the No. 2 starter in 2015 after ace Longstreeth.
“I’d like to work on keeping the ball lower,” Banas said. “Sometimes I get it up and that’s when guys hit me. So if I can improve on that, I expect to keep having success.”
It was the final high school game for Smith Academy seniors Natale and Woodward.
“We have a great group of guys, they’re awesome,” Pluta said. “We’re going to be fine next year, we have a lot of talented guys coming back. The returning kids know what it takes to win and will learn from what we didn’t do (Thursday).”
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@Gazettenet.com.
Turners Falls 3, Smith Academy 0
Turners Falls 000 030 0—3 5 3
Smith Academy 000 000 0—0 4 3
WP - Doyle; LP - Banas; S - Charboneau
Records: Turners (12-11); Smith (13-8)