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Division 1 baseball: Northampton falls to Cathedral in quarterfinal round

SPRINGFIELD — Northampton’s dazzling defensive effort kept Tuesday’s game against Cathedral tied into the bottom of the sixth.

But the Panthers finally hit two balls where the Blue Devils couldn’t get them in the sixth inning to score the go-ahead run in a 2-1 victory in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament baseball quarterfinals at Forest Park.

Andrew Noonan ripped a double to deep left field with one out in the sixth, took third on a groundout and then scored when Peter Crinella’s hard grounder skipped just past the dive of third baseman Mack Hale.

No. 12 Northampton (11-11) answered in the top of the seventh with two hits, but stranded runners at the corners to end the game.

“It’s tough (to be that close at the end) but it shows the kind of team we are,” senior shortstop Zack Goodwin-Boyd said. “We don’t give up. We keep going. We barely made the playoffs, but we kept fighting. We weren’t going to give up to the end.”

The loss marked the end of the careers of Blue Devils seniors Ben Christopher, David Konowitch, Robbie Logue, R.J. Ramsden, Jefferson Willis, Jay Wright, Goodwin-Boyd and Hale.

“Collectively, this is one of the best, if not the best, group of seniors I’ve ever had,” Baldwin said. “They are a group who, since they’ve gotten out of school a couple weeks ago, every day they hit on their own. Yesterday, they went to the batting cage in Hadley at lunchtime on their own. They didn’t have to do that. It showed. We swung the bats pretty well. We didn’t strike out much today.”

The Blue Devils clawed their way into the postseason, winning three of their last four games just to reach the tournament before knocking off No. 5 Central in the first round on May 30.

The seniors “are certainly talented, and they’ve worked so hard and never gave up,” Baldwin said. “Every day, they stayed positive. They could have checked out and didn’t. Some of them had tough seasons and battled back to, by the end of the year, ended up having good seasons.”

No. 4 Cathedral (15-7) advanced to the semifinals at Western New England University on Thursday at 4 p.m. The Panthers will play the winner of Wednesday’s quarterfinal game between No. 1 Agawam (16-5) and No. 8 Taconic (16-5).

“We were a different team in the second half than we were in the first half,” Baldwin said. “We are as good as” Cathedral.

The Panthers got on the scoreboard first Tuesday when Noonan was hit by a pitch with two outs, stole second and scored on an Tim Danehy single up the middle in the first.

The Blue Devils kept the lead there with terrific defense throughout the game, including two 6-4-3 double plays, multiple diving catches in the outfield and a number of standout plays by Goodwin-Boyd at shortstop.

“He’s the real deal,” said Baldwin, who has been at Northampton 15 years. “He’s as good as I’ve ever had, both at the plate and in the field. ... He made a play in the hole today that high school kids just don’t make.”

Sophomore ace Joe Warner went the distance in the loss, allowing five hits, one walk and two hit batters while striking out five.

“Joe did a great job pitching,” Goodwin-Boyd said. “He kept the ball low and let us help him out by getting grounders. Both teams were pretty solid.”

After struggling offensively early in the game, the Blue Devils came alive in the fourth inning when Goodwin-Boyd singled to right with one out.

Konowitch then hammered a double to left-center and Goodwin-Boyd tried to score from first on the play. Cathedral’s relay to shortstop Kevin Hassett was on the mark and the junior threw a 120-foot strike to home plate to narrowly get the out.

“I wanted to score. Konowitch had a great hit and I thought I could make it,” Goodwin-Boyd said. “The game was so close, we just wanted to get one across. But they made a great play. The executed it well, like they did all day.”

Noonan, the Panthers catcher, applied the tag to Goodwin-Boyd’s shoulder as he slid head first to the plate.

“I probably should have kept Zack at third on the double,” Baldwin said. “The shortstop was really far out in left-center. I knew he had the arm, but I honestly didn’t think he could put it on-line from short left field. He threw a seed. It felt like it might have been our only chance.”

The Blue Devils did get on the board in the fifth when Mack Hale was hit by a pitch with one out and took second and third on passed balls. He then scored when Logue singled to center to tie the game.

After Cathedral took the 2-1 lead in the sixth, Northampton looked to respond in its final at-bat when Sam Santiago reached on an infield single and was bunted to second.

After Tim Danehy (seven innings, seven hits, no walks, six strikeouts) got a strikeout, Logue singled to center, but Baldwin was forced to hold Santiago at third.

The next batter, Jay Wright (1-for-4) nearly beat out an infield hit, but the throw from Hassett was just in time to end the game.

“Robbie hit it too hard,” he said. Sam “was taking a shorter lead to avoid potentially getting doubled off second. He was literally standing on third when the (cutoff man) caught it, and I wasn’t going to take that chance again.”

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

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