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Amherst baseball encouraged despite 4-2 loss to Westfield

After a rough first inning, starting pitcher Alec Snyder-Fair recovered to shut down the defending western Massachusetts champions over the final six frames.

The Hurricanes’ No. 2 starter allowed eight hits with eight strikeouts in a complete-game effort. After the first, however, he gave up only a single run on five hits.

“He’s a guy who gets better as the outing goes on, which he seems to do every time out,” Amherst coach Greg Vouros said. “They were squaring him up some early, but he showed some real toughness to hold down such a good lineup after that.”

Snyder-Fair finished with 123 pitches in taking his first loss of the season. He’s now 5-1 with an earned run average around 2.00.

“I shouldn’t have had to throw that many pitches, but I’ve been going deep all year and it’s nice to know I can take it the distance,” Snyder-Fair said. “I really wanted to finish this one and I told Coach I had enough.”

In a first-inning slugfest, the teams combined for five runs and seven hits with Westfield up 3-2. A walk, a single and a pair of doubles put three on the board for the visitors.

“That’s probably the best hitting team in western Mass. and they pounced on me early,” Snyder-Fair said. “In the first, my breaking stuff wasn’t working great and they sat on the fastball. The difference after the first was my curve and slider worked much better and I could keep them off balance.”

The Hurricanes (11-5, 2-4 Valley League) responded with a pair in the bottom half. With one out, Justin Carey singled and then raced home on Asher Young’s triple to right-center field. Jamie Carey followed with a one-hop smash that bounded off the chest of shortstop Colin Dunn for a run-scoring infield single.

“I was very happy with the way we came back right away from a 3-0 deficit, but we just couldn’t get that next big hit to tie or take the lead,” Vouros said.

Amherst loaded the bases with two down but Westfield stater Matt Irzyk induced a pop out by Tim Pruner to thwart the threat.

Irzyk dominated from that point, allowing just one more hit over the final six frames. The hard-throwing righty struck out nine and walked only one.

“Their pitcher was able to get ahead with both of his pitches, which made it tough on our hitters,” Vouros said. “After that first inning, he really shut us down.”

Jamie Carey (2-for-3, RBI) picked up his second infield hit to lead off the bottom of the sixth and moved to second on a throwing error by Dunn. With the tying run at the plate, Irzyk struck out the side and then repeated the feat in the bottom of the seventh to end it.

The Bombers (10-6, 4-1) tacked on an insurance tally with two outs in the top of the third. Nate Barnes singled and Chris Sullivan tripled to deep right-center to bring home the run.

Chris Sullivan drove in a pair with a double and a triple, while Tim Donahue and Robby Sullivan also had RBI hits for Westfield.

Justin Carey and Young (RBI) each had a hit and scored a run for Amherst, which has four games remaining in the regular season.

“We have some good wins under our belt this season, so now we’re focusing on getting back to playing our best ball,” Vouros said. “We hope it’s still in front of us, and I only think it will take one win to get us feeling strong again.”

Said Snyder-Fair, “I’m feeling good about myself and my team. We know we can beat anyone. We had opportunities to score (Tuesday), it just didn’t work out for us. But we all trust each other to get the job done. Pitching-wise, I think we can outduel anyone.”

Staff ace Asher Young and Snyder-Fair have combined for eight of Amherst’s 11 pitching victories.

“Asher knows a ton about pitching and he’s great to watch perform,” Snyder-Fair said. “He’s a guy who can watch you throw in the bullpen and offer pointers. He really sets the tone for the team and especially the pitching staff. I knew I needed to step into that No. 2 role and there’s a ton of support around me.”

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.

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