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Amherst claims Little League 10-12 District 2 championship with extra-innings win over Belchertown

  • Charles May, right, of Amherst arrives at third on his RBI triple beside Belchertown third baseman Kainoa David during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pieter Hartman, of Amherst pitches to Belchertown during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Zach Buffone, right, of Belchertown, leaves third base to score after a throw escaped Aryeh Rubinstein, of Amherst, during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kainoa David, of Belchertown, catches at hit by Liam Stewart, of Amherst, during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Brady Perkins, of Belchertown, bats against Amherst in the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Connor Gregoire, of Belchertown, pitches to Amherst in the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Elijah Rubinstein, of Amherst, pitches to Belchertown during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Josh Misiaszek, left, of Belchertown, prepares to catch at second, but Jameson Dion, of Amherst, steals the base during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kainoa David, left, of Belchertown, prepares to catch at third, but Elijah Rubinstein, of Amherst, steals the base during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Riley Breen, of Belchertown, hits a single against Amherst during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Elijah Rubinstein, of Amherst, hits a a single against Belchertown during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ian McDonald, of Belchertown, scores on a passed ball by Amherst during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Eli Kern, of Amherst, hits a RBI single against Belchertown during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ian McDonald, of Belchertown, hits a single against Amherst during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Josh Misiaszek, left, of Belchertown, catches at second, forcing out Eli Kern, of Amherst, on a hit by Chase Lashway during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Josh Misiaszek, left, of Belchertown, dives to second, but can't stop Liam Stewart, of Amherst, from stealing the base during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Liam Stewart, left, of Amherst, scores after getting past Jake Waller, of Belchertown, during the Little League District 2 10-12 championship, Wednesday at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



For the Gazette
Thursday, July 12, 2018

AMHERST — The Amherst 10-12-year-old Little League baseball all-stars trailed Belchertown by one in the bottom of the sixth and maybe final inning.

Coach Luke Bussard had a message before their final at bat Wednesday at home in the Division 2 district championship.

“I said, ‘Guys, we gotta fight. We gotta fight for everything right now. Nobody’s gonna hand it to you on a silver platter,” he said.

The pep talk paid off. With two outs and the bases loaded, a wild pitch allowed Amherst’s Charles May to charge home and score the tying run that sent the game to extra innings. Amherst worked around a Belchertown hit and a walk in the top of the seventh to keep the game tied.

In the bottom of the seventh, Neil Cunniffe and Pieter Hartman walked to set the stage for Liam Stewart.

After a wild pitch early in the count, Stewart had the game winning run on third and a chance to win the game. He sent a high fly ball to center field deep enough to score Cunniffe on a walk-off sacrifice fly, winning the game 7-6.

“I was just hoping to hit the ball,” Stewart said. “It feels great.”

It won the District 2 championship for Amherst, which advances to double-elimination sectional play starting Wednesday.

Amherst got the ball rolling in the first inning against Belchertown with an RBI triple from May, scoring Hartman, who lead the inning off with a single. Two batters later, Aryeh Rubinstein knocked in May with an double, giving Amherst an early 2-0 lead.

Belchertown got on the board in the second inning after Zach Buffone led off with a single, stole second, and scored after a bad throw went into left field as he stole third. In the bottom of the third, Amherst added a run when pinch-hitter Eli Kern singled, scoring Elijah Rubinstein after he stole both second and third base, putting Amherst up 3-1.

Belchertown starter Connor Gregoire struck out four over three innings pitched, giving up five hits, three runs, and three walks. Amherst starter Pieter Hartman struck out three, walked two and gave up six hits and one run over 2⅔ innings.

“Our backs were against the wall,” Belchertown coach Todd McDonald said. Belchertown needed runs and came through big in the fourth.

The inning began with back-to-back singles from Riley Breen and Ian McDonald, and after a pop out, a walk from Kainoa David loaded the bases for Belchertown. Derek Gould then singled, scoring Breen. Ian McDonald scored in the next at bat on a wild pitch. Then Buffone stepped in with two on and two out and delivered a two-run-double, giving Belchertown its first lead of the game, 5-3.

“There’s not a lot you have to say to this team. They pull for each other, they really come together,” Todd McDonald said. “Both of these teams absolutely battled.”

Amherst responded with a run in the bottom half of the inning when Stewart scored on a wild pitch, cutting the lead to 5-4 at the end of four.

In the fifth, Ian McDonald hit a two-out triple and scored after Brady Perkins hit a single, giving Belchertown a two-run lead once again. Amherst then responded again with a Daighan LeBlanc RBI-single that scored Shane Bussard, who reached on a one-out double. Belchertown took a 6-5 lead into the final inning but couldn’t hang on.

“We made some mistakes in the field today that could’ve really hurt us,” coach Bussard said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. We battled back and won a game we probably shouldn’t have.”

While giving up the bulk of the runs, Elijah Rubinstein was still able to keep things close for Amherst as he struck out eight over 3⅔ innings in relief, allowing five runs on six hits, and walked two. Once his pitch count rose, Rubinstein was pulled for his brother Aryeh, who got the final two outs of the top of the seventh.

“We were fortunate we won our first few games and so we had a chance to have most of our pitching available,” Bussard said. “They are such a well-coached team. I have the utmost respect for that program, for that town, for the team, and especially for coach Todd.”

For Belchertown and coach McDonald, a loss in the championship was a lesson learned.

“They learned every step of the way,” McDonald said. “We walk away from this saying, ‘We didn’t lose this game, Amherst beat us and it took seven innings to do so.’ That’s what championship games are about.”