By Chris Putz
LONGMEADOW – Longmeadow baseball could not crack Westfield during the high school regular season. But on Monday night, it was a crack of thunder and a bolt of lightning that took the bats out of the hands of both American Legion ball clubs.
Longmeadow pitcher Connor McCarthy had a perfect game through three innings when swirling winds caused a dust storm on the diamond, forcing umpires to hold up play before the start of the fourth with Westfield Post 124 trailing 1-0. Thunder and lightning soon followed, as did the heavy rains. The game was called. No makeup date had been scheduled.
“It was the right call,” Longmeadow coach Jim Sotiropoulos said. “It got really ugly – unbelievable.”
McCarthy was incredibly effective early, retiring the first nine Westfield batters. Two outs came via strikeout. The Longmeadow defense fielded six fly balls cleanly, and forced a groundout to end the top of the third.
“I think what was happening was basically every pitch was off speed and we were out in front of everything,” Westfield coach Don Irzyk said. “I think we were too aggressive. We were jumping on early pitches and our timing was off. It would have been nice to start that next inning to see what (our batters) could do the next time around.”
Longmeadow scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the second inning.
Reed Phillips walked to lead off the second, stole second base, and advanced to third on Owen Ryan’s line drive single to right field. Ryan stole second, and when the throw was misplayed at the bag, Phillips scored. Westfield pitcher Matt Irzyk, who helped fuel the high school team’s Western Massachusetts Division I championship run, struck out two batters to end the inning. He had four strikeouts through the first three innings.
“It was a really good start for us,” Sotiropoulos said. “Our defense was solid, and McCarthy was mixing up his pitches well. He kept the Westfield hitters off balance. He was hitting his spots. He had good control tonight.”
“We’ve got to be aggressive and take some chances,” he added. “We had some guys running around and making the most of opportunities.”
Longmeadow entered Monday night’s game with a record of 2-3, having suffered a pair of one-run defeats. They lost to Springfield-Teddy Bear 1-0 and fell to South Hadley, who won in the bottom of the seventh, 2-1.
“I think (we have) a good group of guys,” Sotiropoulos said. “They have good baseball intelligence. …So many people on my team can play multiple positions.”
Third baseman Owen Ryan and McCarthy have taken over duties behind the plate after the team lost its starting catcher to injury. In fact, McCarthy threw out two would-be base stealers.
“They’re doing a real good job,” Sotiropoulos said. “I’m optimistic. I know it’s early in the season, but I think we’re going to make a good run.”
Westfield hit its stride during the high school postseason, finishing as one of the top four teams in the entire state. The Legion ball club, consisting primarily of those same Bombers and a smattering of prep school prospects and college players, opened the regular season 5-0 with five straight wins over a five-day stretch.
Post 124 hit a few bumps in the road as of late with losses to Ludlow and Palmer.
Westfield entered Monday night’s game fresh off a 10-4 victory over Greenfield, another team mostly made up of players from its Division II high school WMass championship team.
In that game, Rob Sullivan (2 RBIs), Connor Sas (2 RBIs), Ashton Kennedy (2 RBIs), Kyle Murphy, Rich Tettemer, Jake Toomey, and Jeff Hockenberry racked up two hits a piece for Westfield. Tettemer was sharp in his first outing on the mound, scattering five hits, striking out seven batters and walking one.
Westfield suffered only its second loss of the season Friday night, losing to unbeaten Palmer (7-0), 6-5.
Kenny McLean pitched six solid innings for Post 124, and Tettemer had two hits.
Notes: Westfield swept Longmeadow during the 2013 high school regular season, 2-0.