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Northampton baseball team qualifies for postseason

Needing a win to qualify for the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament, Warner led the Blue Devils to a 7-4 win at Ludlow Monday.

“I knew when I took the mound that it was a win-or-go-home situation,” Warner said. “I didn’t want to let our seniors down.”

The victory sends the Northampton (10-10, 6-4 Suburban) back to the WMass tournament after missing the cut last season.

Warner struck out nine and allowed four runs, three earned, in the complete-game performance.

With his team leading 2-0, the junior ran into trouble in the third inning, walking the bases loaded with one out.

“Some of my pitches weren’t moving the way I wanted them to,” Warner said. “So at that point I knew I really had to focus.”

After giving up a single to Lions outfielder Alex Lafayette to scored two runs, Warner settled down and retired the next two batters he faced. He allowed only one more earned run after the third.

“Joe was on the verge of giving the game away with those walks,” Northampton coach Mark Baldwin said. “He made adjustments, though, and started throwing his slider more. After that inning, he was lights out.”

The Blue Devils took control with a four-hit fifth inning, highlighted by RBIs from seniors Ben Christopher and Zack Goodwin-Boyd to take the lead for good at 4-3.

Northampton added, to its lead in the sixth, when Ben O’Connor ripped a bases-loaded double to right-center field to score Sam Santiago and Mack Hale.

After the two-run third, the Lions (11-9, 5-5 Suburban) offensive attack couldn’t gain traction and left a total of six runners stranded on base.

Ludlow pitcher Nelson Mourao allowed five earned runs on seven hits and struck out one in 51∕3 innings.

The Blue Devils will learn their postseason schedule at Tuesday’s tournament seeding meeting at Northampton High at 5 p.m.

“We just need to take care of the things we can take care of,” Baldwin said. “If we put balls in play and keep the mental mistakes to a minimum, we have a great shot.”

Warner echoed his coach’s sentiments, but said Monday’s win showed what Northampton is capable of against strong competition.

“We’re just going to take it game by game,” he said. “Whoever we play, they’ll know we’re a dangerous team, and I think right now we’re really finding our groove right now.”

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