Saturday, September 13, 2014
AMHERST — Jamie Ryan didn’t expect to take the mound for his Easthampton Mickey Mantle baseball team in Thursday evening’s playoff game.
But an injury to scheduled starter Brandon Bennett forced Ryan into duty and he responded with a complete-game 2-hitter in a 3-2 victory over Amherst at Ziomek Field.
After going through his warmup pitches prior to the bottom of the first, Bennett was unable to continue due to elbow pain in his throwing arm. However, Ryan filled in nicely, striking out five and walking two while allowing two unearned runs.
“I wouldn’t say I was successful, but I had eight players behind me working hard, so that’s what it took,” Ryan said. “We wanted to come in and play hard baseball, which is what we did.”
With the win, No. 6 Easthampton (10-12) advanced to the winners’ bracket final Saturday at 10 a.m. against No. 4 South Hadley (15-7), which defeated top-seeded Deerfield 6-4 Thursday.
Amherst (7-14), meanwhile, will have to beat Frontier (6-15) at 1 p.m. Saturday to remain in the double-elimination tournament. Frontier knocked out No. 5 Greenfield 8-2 Thursday.
The remainder of the tournament will be held at Headmaster Field in Deerfield.
Tyler Vishaway led the Easthampton offense, going 3 for 3 with two runs batted in and a run scored. Steve Moussette had two hits, while Zach Crisafulli (RBI) and Ryan York each added a hit apiece for Easthampton.
Easthampton and Amherst played twice during the regular season, with Easthampton winning both matchups.
“We played well (Wednesday) against Mohawk, and we brought it back (Thursday),” Vishaway said. “We’ve never played better before. We brought our fielding and hitting, but most of all our pitching was there.”
Stephen McCudden and Jake Balderston recorded the only hits for Amherst, both singles.
Amherst jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first when Liam Brodigan walked, stole second, and eventually scored on a error.
Amherst threatened again in the second when they put runners on first and second with one out, but Ryan was able to induce a 6-4-3 double play to escape the jam.
“I just try to throw strikes (with runners on),” Ryan said. “Sometimes they’ll hit and other times they won’t, and most of the time my fielders make plays to back me up, so that’s all I had to do.”
After a leadoff single from Vishaway in the fourth, Easthampton tied the game on a deep fly ball to right field from Crisafulli that tipped off the glove of right fielder Seth Bella-Hunter and allowed Vishaway to score.
Vishaway came up big for Easthampton again in the next inning. York led off with a single and Moussette was hit by a pitch to put two on with no outs. After Trevor Edwards got two quick outs on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt and a groundout, Vishaway came up with runners on second and third and drove a two-run single up the middle to put Easthampton up 3-1.
“The goal there is to just get a base hit, nothing big,” Vishaway said. “You just need to get runners home when they’re there.”
Ryan cruised through the middle innings before Amherst pushed across a run in the sixth. Brodigan drove home Edwards, who’s reached on a throwing error, on a groundout to short.
With Amherst down to their final out in the seventh, Jake Balderston singled and stole second to put Amherst a base-hit away from potentially tying the game. However, Ryan was able to fan Dani Miller-Grossman to end the game.
“My curveball was working in the beginning, but after five innings it started to slow down so I only had a fastball,” said Ryan.
Edwards started the game for Amherst, allowing two earned runs over five innings of work, striking out seven while walking none. Balderston pitched the final two frames, striking out four.
“Overall, we have a good team that just couldn’t find it at the beginning of the season,” Vishaway said. “After an 0-5 start we’ve kind of found our way.”