|Gritty Great Barrington Comes Back to Win District Title|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires.com Sports|
06:41PM / Sunday, July 11, 2021
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. -- Two games, two come-from-behind wins and one district championship for the 11-year-old all stars from the Great Barrington Little League.
Luke Fenig doubled in a run and went three innings on the mound as Great Barrington topped the Pittsfield Little League American Division, 5-3, in the rain-shortened championship game of the Don Gleason District 1 tournament at Olympian Meadows.
On Saturday, Fenig drove in the tying and winning runs of a 14-13 game against the Pittsfield Nationals that saw Great Barrington surrender three runs in the top of the sixth to fall behind, 13-10.
“We haven’t been together too long, and our first game was Friday and it continued into Saturday,” Great Barrington manager Jason Gappa said. “In that game, we were down three times, and this group came back.
“I’ve been impressed. We haven’t been together that long and got rained out, in terms of practices, for about a week. So I’m pleasantly surprised with how much grit they have.”
Great Barrington needed just one win to reach the final round of the double-elimination tournament. Pittsfield American battled back after a Game 1 loss to the Nats by beating its rival in Saturday afternoon’s elimination bracket game.
On Sunday, Great Barrington drew first blood with a run in the bottom of the first.
Leadoff man Evan Macy drew a walk and moved up on a pitch that got to the backstop. Then, with two out, Fenig ripped a double to right center to chase Macy home for a 1-0 lead.
It stayed that way until the top of the third, when Pittsfield American rallied for a pair of runs on four straight singles.
Ben Sykes started things off and moved around on hits by Mario Zerbato, Brendan Merwin and Eli Kristensen to tie it. Merwin went to third on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Jonathan Parsons and scored on a pitch to the backstop to give Pittsfield a 2-1 lead.
Great Barrington grabbed the lead back in the bottom of the frame when it scored four times on just two base hits.
Macy and Mo Stuckey drew one-out walks ahead of John Gappa’s bunt single. An errant throw on the play allowed Macy to score and Gappa to get to second.
After Fenig walked to reload the bases, Matt Vallone singled to drive in a run and make it 3-2. Gappa ended up scoring on a wild pitch, and Fenig scored when Henry Palazzo drew a bases-loaded walk -- the fifth free pass Great Barrington earned in the inning.
“They’ve had some really good at-bats,” Jason Gappa said. “They really haven’t chased too many balls high or low, so they’ve been challenging the other pitchers to throw strikes.
“That was something the guys had going into that Friday night game when we were down a bunch -- making them make sure they throw strikes. They challenged them to throw strikes, and when they did put it over the plate and we had guys in scoring position, they put the ball in play.”
The Pittsfield Americans got a lift in the top of the fourth when Levi Koldys drew a leadoff walk and stole second and third. He then scored when Sykes earned a walk and kept going to second, drawing a throw that allowed Koldys to score.
But Great Barrington’s Gappa got the next man to ground back to the mound to end the threat.
Just as Pittsfield took the field for the bottom of the fourth, a light rain turned to a downpour, forcing the umpire to send the teams to their dugouts with one out and a Great Barrington runner on first.
After waiting out the storm for half an hour, the umpire and tournament officials sent the teams home, which for Great Barrington means getting ready for a trip this week to the Worcester area to face the winner of District 4 in the sectional playoffs.
“This is new territory in some sense,” Gappa said. “John, my son, played a little bit last year with COVID in the summertime. But we’re kind of new to the 11s. Typically, it’s been a Pittsfield team. They have great programs. It’s a little new to GB, but we’re excited about it and looking forward to seeing what these guys can do.
“I said to them yesterday after they pulled it off, not every kid gets to play on an all-star team and represent their town. You guys did that. And not only did you do that, you got a win. Let’s take a moment and really enjoy that. Coming into today, we talked about the same thing: Enjoy the moment, have some fun with it, play hard, control the things that we can control.”
Photos from this game to come.