Baseball: Chicopee Comp strikes early, takes down Amherst (PHOTOS)

Amherst pitcher Matthew Vassallo (5) throws against Chicopee Comp in the top of the second inning Wednesday in Amherst.

Amherst pitcher Matthew Vassallo (5) throws against Chicopee Comp in the top of the second inning Wednesday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Amherst’s Matthew Vassallo (5) knocks an RBI double against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the third inning Wednesday in Amherst.

Amherst’s Matthew Vassallo (5) knocks an RBI double against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the third inning Wednesday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Amherst’s Elijah Rubinstein (11) pokes an RBI single against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the third inning Wednesday in Amherst.

Amherst’s Elijah Rubinstein (11) pokes an RBI single against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the third inning Wednesday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Amherst baserunner Spencer Waite (1) safely slides into third for a stolen base against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the first inning Wednesday in Amherst.

Amherst baserunner Spencer Waite (1) safely slides into third for a stolen base against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the first inning Wednesday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Amherst’s Neil Cunniffe makes contact against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the second inning Wednesday in Amherst.

Amherst’s Neil Cunniffe makes contact against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the second inning Wednesday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Amherst’s Matthew Vassallo (5) drives in two runs against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the first inning Wednesday in Amherst.

Amherst’s Matthew Vassallo (5) drives in two runs against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the first inning Wednesday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Amherst pitcher Aryeh Rubinstein (31) throws against Chicopee Comp in the top of the third inning Wednesday in Amherst.

Amherst pitcher Aryeh Rubinstein (31) throws against Chicopee Comp in the top of the third inning Wednesday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Amherst pitcher Matthew Vassallo (5) throws against Chicopee Comp in the top of the second inning Wednesday in Amherst.

Amherst pitcher Matthew Vassallo (5) throws against Chicopee Comp in the top of the second inning Wednesday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE​​​​​​

Amherst Spencer Waite (1) puts the ball in play against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the second inning Wednesday in Amherst.

Amherst Spencer Waite (1) puts the ball in play against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the second inning Wednesday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Amherst baserunners Spencer Waite (1) and Thatcher Rudnik (2) score against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the first inning Wednesday in Amherst.

Amherst baserunners Spencer Waite (1) and Thatcher Rudnik (2) score against Chicopee Comp in the bottom of the first inning Wednesday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Amherst pitcher Aryeh Rubinstein (31) throws against Chicopee Comp in the top of the fourth inning Wednesday in Amherst.

Amherst pitcher Aryeh Rubinstein (31) throws against Chicopee Comp in the top of the fourth inning Wednesday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 04-17-2024 5:12 PM

AMHERST — It didn’t take very long for the Chicopee Comp baseball team to assert itself.

The visiting Colts hung 10 runs on Amherst in the top of the first inning, and doubled that total over the next four innings as the host Hurricanes dropped their third straight game in a 20-5 five-inning loss on Wednesday afternoon at Ziomek Diamond.

After sophomore pitcher Matthew Vassallo, who started his first career game, retired the first batter with a fly out to center field, the next 13 Chicopee Comp batters reached base safely. Eight Colts players scored at least one run in the first inning, and they accumulated nine hits to go with it.

Heading into the game, Amherst head coach Jeff Gladu told Vassallo to only worry about throwing strikes, and not to overthink his first start at the varsity level. Vassallo did just that, but Comp’s bats were ready for what he had to offer.

“That’s a good Chicopee Comp team who strung a lot of hits together early on,” Gladu said. “We asked Matt to throw strikes and that’s what he did. They put good swings on the ball.”

Vassallo tossed two frames and finished with one strikeout, and didn’t surrender a hit in his second inning of work. Because of the hefty number of postponements early on this spring, several teams in western Mass. are getting punished with three, four or – in Chicopee Comp’s case this week – five games per week.

That gives skippers like Gladu a choice to make when tabbing a starting pitcher for each game. Given that the ‘Canes have already played this week, and have another game on Friday, Gladu tossed Vassallo (typically a catcher) out on the bump in hopes his best arms would be ready to go come the end of the week.

“It’s extremely difficult, and every team in Massachusetts is battling the same problem,” Gladu said. “You have some programs that are flushed with arms, but the majority of them aren’t. There isn’t the luxury of having arms, and with rainouts and adding three, four, five games a week, that’s unprecedented. You’ll find some ugly scores, and today was the one that we had.”

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On top of starting a pitcher with minimal experience, Amherst also has an influx of youth across its roster – and many of them played out of position on Wednesday. Without starting center fielder Matthew Hockman, players were moved around as Gladu scrambled to put together the most efficient starting nine he could.

Derek Gromacki – an eighth grader – started at second base, freshman Greg King suited up behind the plate to spell Vassallo and freshman Oscar Peterson was the designated hitter.

All things considered, Gladu couldn’t have asked for much more out of his guys.

“I’m very pleased with the effort of my guys, even in situations like today where they could’ve rolled over and quit,” Galdu said. “Maybe it looked like that to the average fan, but our kids were super unselfish and played out of position. We had to use younger kids in key positions that have never had any experience. We’re not making excuses, because you take your lumps. But we’ll grow from this.”

Amherst did manage to keep the game within reach with its bats. The ‘Canes responded to the Colts’ 10-spot with two runs in the bottom of the first, and added three more in the third.

Spencer Waite (hit by pitch) and Thatcher Rudnik (fielder’s choice) came around to score after getting on in the first, and Elijah Rubinstein brought Rudnik (who reached base three times on Wednesday) home in the third with a single. Vassallo poked a double to bring in Rubinstein, and would later scoot home on a passed ball.

The timely hitting displayed has been the heartbeat of this Amherst team thus far.

“The strength of our team has been the ability to get the big hit with runners on base,” Gladu said. “I’ve been making sure the kids are getting swings every day in practice, and these kids, one through nine, go up there with the approach that they’re gonna get the big hit. I have the confidence that they’re gonna get it done.”

Due to Amherst’s dwindling numbers, it moved down a league into the Suburban East – where it plays Wahconah, Monument Mountain, Mount Greylock and Southwick, some very long trips. But Gladu didn’t complain, and he also buoyed the Hurricanes’ strength of schedule with Hampshire County’s best, like Hopkins, Frontier and Belchertown.

Both Gladu and his players are ready for the challenge.

“We’ll play anybody, anywhere. Any time, any place,” Gladu said. “When we picked our non-league schedule, I said, ‘Give me the best around.’ I want us to be challenged, and these kids want to play the best competition they can. If we have to play out in the Berkshires, we will. We’re not making any excuses.”

Amherst (1-3) travels to Chicopee on Friday at 4 p.m. looking to get back in the win column.