South Hadley Mickey Mantle holds off Amherst

Last modified: Monday, September 08, 2014
SOUTH HADLEY — With quiet bats, the South Hadley Mickey Mantle team had to capitalize on the base paths to get past Amherst with a 6-5 win on Thursday.

“It was a tough game. They battled hard against us. We just couldn’t get away from them,” South Hadley coach Kevin Foley said. “We kept putting ourselves in position where we could get a big hit and get a little separation, but we couldn’t do that. And they just kept battling back. I give them a lot of credit. They played a good ball game tonight.”

Three Amherst (6-9) pitchers limited South Hadley (12-4) to three hits, but nine walks and two hit batters put runners on base. South Hadley stole six bases, with four leading to runs.

“We decided to really crank it up on the base paths together because we really weren’t hitting quite as well as we typically do tonight,” Foley said. “We were putting the ball in play, but we didn’t have a lot of hits to show for it. I was just trying to move some guys around. Get some guys in motion, hoping we could get some runs or innings going based on that.”

South Hadley capitalized on back-to-back walks, three stolen bases, all three hits and a passed ball in the second inning to take an early 6-1 lead.

David Pratt and Thomas Shea walked to open the inning. Justin Kleeberg singled home Pratt and Mario Olivera dropped a two-out bloop single behind second base, scoring Shea and Kleeberg. Brian Bak walked and Ryan Mooney helped himself with a two-run double for the inning’s final tallies.

After a pitching change to start the third, South Hadley was held hitless through the final four innings, allowing Amherst to get back in the game.

“We got down early and we didn’t give up. Switching pitchers helped. Jack Hession really shut them down, got us back on track.” Amherst coach James McCudden said. “It was really a close game with some pretty good pitching.”

Seth Bella-Hunter pitched the first two innings. Hession allowed four walks and hit a batter, but didn’t give up a hit or allow a runner to score in 32/3 innings.

“I went out and tried to do as much I could, tried to get strikes and not let up runs,” Hession said. “It worked.”

For South Hadley, Ryan Mooney allowed a leadoff walk by Trevor Edwards to score then held South Hadley’s 6-1 lead until Amherst strung together multiple hits in the fifth.

“It was good in the beginning, then my arm started to get sore and I had a bad inning, that last inning I was done,” Mooney said.

The three-run fifth pulled Amherst to within one and forced South Hadley to dig into a vacation-depleted bullpen.

Stephen McCudden walked and Liam Brodigan singled. Will Budington drove home McCudden and Bella-Hunter cleared the bases with a two-out double to make it 6-5. Mooney got the final out of the inning, forcing John Bella-Hunter to ground out, but was doing for the day.

Bak made his first appearance of the season in relief for South Hadley and allowed a single to Jonah Kane to open the sixth. He faced four batters thanks to heads up defense getting the lead runner on two fielder’s choices and catcher Pratt picking off Nathan Masteralexis at third base for the final out.

“Alex (Dragon) had just pitched a complete game Monday night against Northampton, so he didn’t have many pitches in him. We needed Brian (Bak) to go in there and hold that lead for us,” Foley said.

Dragon threw a 1-2-3 inning, closing with two strikeouts for the save.

“This was a very good competitive game,” James McCudden said. “That last kid, man he’s a really good pitcher.”

Sarah Moomaw can be reached at smoomaw@gazettenet.com.