Div. 1 baseball: Top-seeded Northampton moves into WMass final thanks to 11-4 victory over Longmeadow

  • Northampton junior Nate Kelleher-Mochak, shown here against Agawam in the quarterfinals, helped the Blue Devils advance to their first WMass final since 1995 thanks to an 11-4 win over Longmeadow in the semifinal round Thursday in Northampton. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2021 9:17:54 PM

NORTHAMPTON – For the first time in 26 years, the Northampton baseball team will play in a Western Mass. final.

The top-seeded Blue Devils punched their ticket to the program’s first sectional title-game since 1995 on Thursday afternoon. The club pushed across five runs in the bottom of the first inning and racked up a season-high run total en route to an 11-4 victory over No. 12 Longmeadow in the semifinals of the Division 1 Tournament.

Northampton (13-2) will host No. 6 Westfield (11-4) in the Div. 1 championship game Monday at 4 p.m.

“I know to us, it means everything,” began Northampton junior outfielder Dominic Badorini. “This has been the goal for two years. With no season last year, this is all we’ve been talking about so to say we’re playing in the Western Mass. finals now, it’s awesome. This is what we’ve been working toward for pretty much the entire time we’ve been in high school.”

Northampton’s last title-game appearance came when it was a Division 2 program in 1995. The Devils defeated Greenfield, 11-7. The program’s most recent Division 1 final came in 1993 when it knocked off Pittsfield, 2-1.

“This team in particular, they’re competitors,” lauded ’Hamp skipper Ryan Parent. “They find different ways to win. Today we scored a lot of runs. We don’t do that often. But they battled. It’s a group that has worked hard together and this was their goal. It’s been their goal since last year. We lost our season (in 2020), so the goal coming into this season again was to win Western Mass. and now we’re in a final.”

Longmeadow (7-8) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Sean Shea singled home Nicholas Medeiros.

The advantage didn’t last long, however. Northampton batted around in the bottom of the first inning, with Badorini delivering a two-run double to deep center field that nearly got out of the ballpark. Two Longmeadow errors ultimately helped the hosts put a five-spot up in the home half of the frame and snag a 5-1 advantage.

“That first inning we gave up an unearned run which is something we don’t do very often,” Parent explained. “We always say to respond with a crooked number, that’s like our thing. We haven’t done it a lot this year but this time it was really good to get the big hits, with the kids on top of the order getting on base.”

Playing in the high stakes of a Western Mass. semifinal, Badorini said the quick response in the bottom of the first was especially important for Northampton.

“I think that was huge for us. One thing that we haven’t really been able to do this year has been putting up a ton of offense,” he said. “To us, that first inning really set the tone for the whole game.”

The lead grew to 7-1 before the Lancers clawed back in the fourth inning. Charlie Calvanese clubbed a three-run home run over the fence in right field in the top of the frame, drawing the visitors back within 7-4 and springing the Longmeadow bench to life.

After a trip to the mound, Northampton starting pitcher Nate Kelleher-Mochak retired the next two batters to get out of the inning, and the Devils’ offense got back to work in their half. Jack Power stole third base and scored on a throwing error, and Baldorini, who was hit by a pitch, eventually came around to make it 9-4 thanks to another Longmeadow error. The Lancers finished with seven miscues in the field on the day.

“That was huge. They cut it to 7-4 and for that instance, the game had a different feel to it,” Parent said. “So to come back and have the guys respond with two big runs (in the bottom of the fourth) was huge.”

Badorini added another RBI double in the fifth inning, and Heath Wilson also delivered an RBI single to provide even more insurance and make it an 11-4 advantage.

Kelleher-Mochak went 4 1/3 innings before Matt Sullivan, who has four wins to his credit out of the bullpen this spring, relieved him in the fifth inning. Sullivan (1 2/3 innings) and Seth Finnessey (one inning) locked down the lead, as Northampton pitching retired 11 of Longmeadow’s final 13 batters.

“The one thing I’ve been trying to preach all year is that if you put the ball in play, something good thing can happen,” Parent said. “We wanted them to attack and put the ball in play. (Longmeadow) is a better team defensively than they showed today but you never know what can happen when you put the ball in play.”

Nate Kelleher-Mochak and Power each scored three runs atop the lineup, while Jackson Kelleher-Mochak reached base three times and scored a pair of runs for the Devils.

Northampton gets home field advantage in Monday's final. Badorini said his club will need to create offensive chances again in order to beat a Westfield side that has been a mainstay at the Division 1 table. The Bombers have won four Western Mass. titles in the past 13 years. They lost to East Longmeadow, 6-3, in the finals the last time the sectional tournament was played in 2019.

“We just have to play loose,” Badorini said. “We know Westfield is a good team. They don’t give up many runs. I hope we can do what we did today and carry it over until Monday.”

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