Division 1 baseball: Northampton walks off in extra innings to win first title since ’95

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  • Northampton senior shortstop Max Callan puts the tag on Westfield’s Joshua Mayo attempting a steal of second base in the fourth inning of the Blue Devils’ 2-1 win over the Bombers in the Western Massachusetts Div. 1 championship on Monday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior catcher Jack Power, center, handles the third strike by pitcher Will Shaw that retired Westfield batter Jake Jachym and ended the third inning for the Bombers in their 2-1 loss to the Blue Devils in the Western Massachusetts Div. 1 championship on Monday, June 28, 2021, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Jackson Kelleher-Mochak, left, tosses his helmet away in an attempt to avoid a dogpile by his teammates, including senior Edward Sarafin, right, after his RBI single in the ninth clinched the Blue Devils’ 2-1 win over Westfield in the Western Massachusetts Div. 1 championship on Monday, June 28, 2021, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior catcher Jack Power douses his head during the eighth inning of the Blue Devils’ 2-1 win over Westfield in the Western Massachusetts Div. 1 championship on Monday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The throw from home gets past Northampton senior shortstop Max Callan allowing Westfield’s Brian Strange to steal second and advance to third in the fifth inning of the Blue Devils’ 2-1 win over the Bombers in the Western Massachusetts Div. 1 championship on Monday, June 28, 2021, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton starting pitcher Will Shaw (15), helps hold the Western Massachusetts Div. 1 championship trophy after the Blue Devils defeated Westfield 2-1 in nine innings on Monday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Dominic Badorini tags back to first base safely under the late glove of Westfield's David Tirrell in the fourth inning of the Blue Devils' 2-1 win over the Bombers in the Western Massachusetts Div. 1 championship on Monday, June 28, 2021, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Jackson Kelleher-Mochak, center, is congratulated by coach Ryan Parent, left, and teammates after his RBI single in the ninth clinched the Blue Devils’ 2-1 win over Westfield in the Western Massachusetts Div. 1 championship on Monday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior reliever Seth Finnessey took the mound in the eighth and closed the inning with a strike out to preserve the 1-1 tie in the Blue Devils' extrainnings 2-1 win over the Bombers in the Western Massachusetts Div. 1 championship on Monday, June 28, 2021, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Northampton Blue Devils celebrate their 2-1 win over Westfield in the Western Massachusetts Div. 1 championship on Monday, June 28, 2021, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton juniors Brady McDonald, left, and Jackson Kelleher-Mochak and senior Edward Sarafin, right, hold the Western Massachusetts Div. 1 championship trophy after the Blue Devils defeated Westfield 2-1 on Monday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior starter Will Shaw, center, throws to senior first baseman Wilson Heath in an attempt to pick off Westfield runner Brennan Jarvis in the second inning of the Blue Devils' 2-1 win over the Bombers in the Western Massachusetts Div. 1 championship on Monday, June 28, 2021, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/28/2021 9:58:26 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Time to party like it’s 1995.

For the first time in 26 years, the Northampton baseball team is standing atop the Western Massachusetts landscape. Jackson Kelleher-Mochak drilled a two-out, two-strike chopper back up the middle that went off Westfield pitcher Jake Jachym’s glove in the bottom of the ninth inning. Kelleher-Mochak beat out the throw after shortstop James Cloutier snared the ricochet, plating pinch runner Marty Maslowski with the game-winning run to lift the top-seeded Blue Devils to a wild 2-1 walk-off victory over No. 6 Westfield in the title game of the Western Mass Division 1 Tournament on Monday at a scorching Kearney Field.

Northampton (14-2) secured its first sectional title since 1995, when it beat Greenfield for the Div. 2 title. It was the program's first finals appearance since 1997.

“That’s what we’ve done all year,” Kelleher-Mochak said. “I feel like everybody was sleeping on us. We knew what we were going to do. We just had to get the job done.”

Northampton advanced to play Central Mass champion Leominster (17-1) in the Div. 1 state semifinal round, at a date and location still to be determined as of press time.

Monday’s final was a pitcher’s duel into extra innings thanks to standout performances from both hurlers. Northampton’s Will Shaw tossed 7 2/3 innings, striking out nine batters and allowing just four hits and one walk. On the other side, Westfield’s Brian Strange racked up 12 punch outs in seven innings, allowing just four hits and no walks.

With both sides scratching a run together — Northampton in the fourth thanks to an Edward Sarafin RBI single and Westfield in the fifth when Strange scampered home from third base after a Shaw pitch got past catcher Jack Power — neither ace was around by the time push came to shove in extras.

Northampton reliever Seth Finnessey worked out of a jam in the top of the ninth inning, stranding a Westfield runner at third base, and the Devils had their 2-3-4 batters coming to the dish in the home half of the ninth against Jachym.

Power opened the ninth with a single, and pinch runner Maslowski tagged up to take second base after Dom Badorini flew out to right field. Later in the frame, with two outs and Maslowski on third base and Wilson Heath on second (hit by pitch), Kelleher-Mochak battled with the game on the line.

“Just get him in. I’ve got to do a job, help the team any way I can. That’s what was going through my head,” he said.

With two strikes, he put the bat on the ball and motored through the bat at first base to secure the sectional title. Kelleher-Mochak and his teammates immediately took off for center field, where they celebrated by — and over — the outfield fencing.

“Right when I hit it, I thought it was getting through no problem and then the pitcher got a glove on it,” Kelleher-Mochak said. “So as I was running down, I’ve got to beat this out. I’ve got to do this. Then the throw was off and it was greatest feeling in the world.”

First-year head coach Ryan Parent, who played for Northampton in the 1990 Western Mass final against Westfield (a 6-5 extra-inning loss), said he was impressed by his team’s composure despite finding themselves in relatively unfamiliar waters. Though Northampton was the tournament’s No. 1 seed, the Blue Devils were up against a Bomber program that has appeared in seven of the last 13 Western Mass finals. 

“People thought I was crazy (before 2020’s canceled season), at our preseason meeting where I told our guys the goal was  to win Western Mass,” Parent began. “I want to make it so that is the goal. We want to push it so that’s the goal here, and I want them to believe in that.”

Parent said that the team’s breakthrough quarterfinal win over Agawam, a 4-3 nail-biter, set the tone for what wound up being a relaxed Northampton club come the semifinal and final.

“I think as we went through it, the pressure got less,” he said. “I think once we beat Agawam, we were looser. For the most part today, it was really aggressive, smart, fluid baseball and you don’t play that way when you’re uptight. This was gravy for them. Getting (to the final) was the idea, but winning this was gravy. Really good gravy.”

Westfield hadn’t allowed a run all postseason until Monday. The Bombers outscored their first three opponents by a 17-0 margin, including a 1-0 victory over West Springfield in last week’s semifinal round. That meant Northampton needed big things from Shaw, who certainly delivered with the season on the line.

“We know who Will is… he’s gutsy,” Kelleher-Mochak said. “He just gave us a chance to win. Same with Seth, he came in and just shut the door. Super gutsy.”

Parent said the plan was to go as deep into the game with Shaw on the mound as possible, though even the skipper didn't expect his right hander to throw into the eighth inning.

“Quite frankly, the track record with Will this year has not been to get eight innings,” Parent said. “I don’t tend to throw him that much either, but usually he’s at 70 or 80 pitches after four or five (innings). So to have him roll through it like that was absolutely awesome. He was just great. Perfect. And then for Seth to come in in that situation, coming in a hot situation and just shut them down… it was really great.”

Badorini continued his torrid postseason at the plate, going 2-for-4 with the run scored in the fourth after a big offensive outing in the semifinal win over Longmeadow. He singled, took second on an out where a Westfield fielder stepped out of play after making a catch, and jogged to third base when Strange was called for a balk. Sarafin’s hard single back up the middle gave the hosts a 1-0 lead.

It didn’t lasted long, as Strange was hit by a pitch, stole second and took third on a throwing error by Power. He came home as a Shaw pitch sailed high and deflected off Power’s mitt toward the backstop.




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