American Legion: Belchertown Post 239’s state tourney hopes dashed by Westfield in District 3 final

  • Belchertown’s Nate Mills catches a pickoff throw at first base during Post 239’s 5-4 loss to Westfield on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Belchertown’s Ryan Gaughan delivers a pitch during action against Westfield on Wednesday night. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Belchertown Post 239 catcher Evan Hu makes a tag on a Westfield runner at the plate during the championship game of the American Legion Senior Division District 3 tournament on Wednesday night at Jachym Field in Westfield. Host Westfield walked off with a 5-4 win in nine innings to advance to the state tournament. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 7/21/2021 9:51:40 PM

WESTFIELD – With darkness encroaching, Belchertown Post 239 ran out of chances in the American Legion Baseball Massachusetts District 3 championship game.

Wednesday’s final against Westfield Post 124 with a spot in the weekend’s state tournament on the line was in the ninth inning of a seven-inning game at an unlit Jachym Field.

Ryan Gaughan tapped a one-out single through to give Belchertown a baserunner. J.B. Mills hit a sharp grounder to second that forced out Gaughan, but Post 124 couldn’t spin the double play to end the inning.

That brought up Nolan Sullivan, who appeared to find a gap through the left side of the infield, but a diving Joey Caldarella knocked the ball down and threw Sullivan out to head to the bottom of the inning.

“We were hitting the ball hard all over the field but we got unlucky.  They were putting good swings on balls, but they got more luck than us,” Post 239 catcher Evan Hu said. “Balls were falling for them, and people were standing right where we hit them.”

Post 239 pitcher Gaughan opened the bottom of the ninth with a strikeout but hit his pitch limit and had to exit the game.

“Ryan pitched his guts out,” Belchertown manager E.J. Mills said. 

Colin Kennedy relieved him and walked the next two batters, Brady Zabielski and Dan Provost. E.J. Mills pulled him and inserted Logan Dapprich to face Dylan Arooth. The two Westfield runners stole second and third, and Dapprich walked Arooth.

Caldarella hit a ball just deep enough into right field to score the winning run 5-4 after a wide throw to the plate.  Zabielski ran over Hu, who was protecting the plate but didn’t have the ball before Westfield celebrated in the infield. Post 124 will advance to this weekend’s state tournament.

“That’s a tough spot to come in, there’s really nowhere to warm up here,” E.J. Mills said. “We’ve been a really good hitting team but didn’t quite get it done in critical situations.”

Belchertown had a man on second in each of the final three innings in a tie game. In the eighth Jack Gelinas smacked a two-run double. Owen Raines then blasted a ball down the third base line that the Westfield third baseman stabbed his glove into the night to grab and end the threat.

J.B. Mills wore a pitch on his hip in the seventh then stole second but was left there after a deep Hu fly out.

“My dad used to say you gotta hit it where they ain't and we squared up a bunch of baseballs right at them,” E.J. Mills said.

But Belchertown wouldn’t have seen the eighth inning without what Raines did in the sixth. He drove in Ty Gladu with a two-out single to tie the game at 4.

“I’ve been struggling at the plate a bit lately so I wanted to get a nice rip in, help the team out because they’ve helped me these past couple games when I’ve been off,” Raines said.

Post 239 scored the game’s first run when Gladu drove in Hu with an RBI single in the top of the second. Nate Mills later made it 2-0 after scoring on a passed ball.

Westfield scored its first run on obstruction call after a great throw to Hu caught its runner between third and home but Belchertown’s third baseman was in the way as he came back to third. Then an RBI single tied it at 2.

Hu put Belchertown ahead 3-2 in the top of the third, then Westfield tied the game again with an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth.

Post 124 picked up the game-tyring run after Gladu snapped a great throw home off a grounder from third, but the ball popped out of Hu’s glove to allow the run to cross home.

“I was just trying to make a tag too quick. I should have looked it in. I thought the guy was closer than he was,” Hu said. “I was trying to be too fast with it. That’s on me.”

But Post 239’s season isn’t over. This tournament was to determine a representative in the state tournament that will eventually feed into the national tournament. Legion teams in western Massachusetts will play a few more regular season games then have a Western Mass. Legion double-elimination tournament to extend the season since it started so late.

“We should hopefully see them again. That’s what we’re going to look forward to,” Raines said. “Two games we’ve hung around with those guys and haven’t won yet. We want to see them again and we want to battle it out.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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