Wednesday, July 16, 2014
EASTHAMPTON — Scott Bicknell had a big day at the plate while Seth Sypniak took charge on the mound as Pettengill Insurance Post 260 beat Easthampton 8-0 in American Legion action Friday.
Bicknell went 3 for 3 with two triples and two runs scored while knocking in three more for South Hadley. Joe Ciolek also contributed at the plate, going 2 for 4 with a solo home run.
“I saw the ball well today, so I tried to wait back a little longer and square the ball up that way,” Bicknell said.
Sypniak proved he could work out of trouble effectively stranding eight Easthampton runners in the complete-game shutout. The righty walked five, allowed four singles, and struck out six.
“Last year they were a pretty solid team, so we definitely didn’t take them lightly going in,” Sypniak said. “I noticed early that my curveball wasn’t working. My fastball was though.”
Adam Krol, Hunter Leveille, Justin Edinger and Nick Batchelder each singled for Easthampton in the loss. Post 224 had the bases loaded with one out in the first inning, but couldn’t push across a run as Sypniak got a couple of popouts to escape the jam.
Matt Cavanaugh started for Easthampton and retired the first six batters he faced. However, Pettengill took advantage of a couple of errors to push four runs across in the third.
After Sypniak led off the third by reaching base on a dropped fly ball to center, Cavanaugh got Nick Robert to ground a double-play ball to Erik Fickett at third. Fickett fielded the ball cleanly and fired to second, but the throw was dropped as Sypniak slid in safely. Bicknell, the No. 9 hitter, came up next and tripled over the head of Andrew Lavalley in right field, scoring Sypniak and Robert.
“We definitely stress hitting with runners in scoring position,” Bicknell said. “You just need to focus and put the ball in play in those spots.”
After Bicknell scored on a wild pitch, Ciolek sent a solo shot to right field to cap Post 260’s inning.
Sypniak continued to pitch well whenever Easthampton threatened, working out of another bases loaded situation in the fourth and using some tight defense to escape a jam in the fifth.
“I kind of throw a little slower and slow down my windup to focus a little more with runners on,” Sypniak said.
Max Weir led off the fifth for Post 224 with his second walk of the day. After a single from Leveille two batters later, Weir took third on a wild pitch to put runners at the corners with one out. Edinger then hit a grounder back to Sypniak, who quickly threw home to Bicknell to nab Weir at the plate. Just a couple of pitches later, Bicknell cut down Edinger on an attempted steal of second to get out of the inning.
“(Slowing down) helps get some more accuracy sometimes,” Bicknell said. “(Sypniak) just did a great job.”
It was the final game of the regular season for both squads. The playoffs begin on Sunday with a new format in which all 15 teams from the Pioneer Valley qualify for postseason play. Last season, only the top eight teams made the playoffs.
“All we know is that with this win, we got home-field advantage in our first playoff game,” Sypniak said. “The new format hasn’t affected us really. We didn’t even know about it until recently because our coaches kind of kept it from us so that we wouldn’t think we would automatically make the playoffs, and we might play a little harder.”