NECBL Quarterfinals: Valley Blue Sox win 13-inning marathon over Bristol Blues with walk off bunt

By HANNAH BEVIS 

Staff writer 

Published: 08-01-2023 2:38 AM

HOLYOKE – The last two regular season games between the Bristol Blues and the Valley Blue Sox both ended in ties. It would have been folly to believe their first postseason matchup could have been anything different. 

The No. 3 Blue Sox and No. 6 Bristol Blues needed 13 innings to decide the first game of the best-of-three NECBL quarterfinals Monday evening, but Valley made it worth the wait for the fans who stuck it out for the entirety of the contest with a 6-5 victory.

A bunt from William Gale with runners on first and second made the difference. Bristol pitcher Danny Macchiarola attempted to throw out Mason Wolf at third base but threw wild into left field. Once Wolf realized he had time, he sprinted home for the walk-off winning run.

“(It was) a sigh of relief a little bit, in a good way. I know our boys are really tired, played hard, it's been a long season. But scoring definitely took some weight off everyone's shoulders so we didn't have to play a couple more innings,” Wolf said. “In that situation so late in the game, you got to put pressure on the defense and take advantage of those opportunities.”

Valley will travel to Muzzy Field on Tuesday to face Bristol in Game 2 at 6:30 p.m. The Blue Sox need one win to advance while a Valley loss would force a deciding Game 3 on Wednesday back at Mackenzie Stadium. 

Valley hadn’t made the postseason since 2018 before Monday, the second of back-to-back titles. 

Bristol who struck early. A Skye Selinsky grounder got past right fielder EJ Kreutzmann with two runners on. Both Tyler Fote and Gavin Noriega scored and Selinsky made it to third while Kreutzmann chased down the ball, putting Valley in a 3-0 hole in the first.

Valley plated two in the bottom of the second to pull back within one run. With two outs on the board, Collier Cranford singled and then advanced to third on a hit from Zach Ketterman.  Wolf doubled, scoring both Cranford and Ketterman. 

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“This team, it doesn't really matter what happened early in the game. I think we take every at-bat separately from the last at-bat that we had,” Gale said. “That's what good teams do I think, because they don't care about what happened early in the game and just continue to play the same kind of baseball throughout the whole game and good things end up happening.”

Valley starting pitcher Ben Roberts struggled in the top of the fourth, walking three consecutive batters to load the bases with no outs and put Bristol in the driver’s seat. Bristol scored twice more on a fielder’s choice and sacrifice fly to make it 5-2 visitors before Roberts got out of the inning. 

Terry Murray relieved him in the top of the fifth; Roberts finished with five earned runs, four strikeouts and five walks in four innings of work. 

Both teams had to reach deep into their bullpens to finish out the game. Twelve pitchers stepped on the mound. Besides Roberts and Murray (three innings, one run allowed, one strikeout), the Blue Sox threw Michael Weidinger (one inning, two strikeouts), Zach Cameron (two innings, two strikeouts), Jason Arrigo (two innings, six strikeouts, one walk) and Jaden Palumbo (one inning, two strikeouts, one walk). 

Arrigo played hero for Valley. After striking out two batters in the 11th, he managed to strike out four batters in the 12th inning (one was a dropped third strike) and got the Blue Sox out of a jam with two runners on second and third with no outs. 

Valley breathed new life back into Mackenzie Stadium in the bottom of the seventh. After scoring once in the sixth inning to make it a two-run game, Bristol allowed Wolf (hit by pitch) and Gale (walk) on base before a single from AJ Guerrero scored Wolf thanks to some aggressive base running from Wolf. Bristol’s throw beat Wolf home, but the Blues’ catcher couldn’t hang onto the ball when Wolf bumped him to score. Kreutzmann tied the game on the next at-bat with a single that scored Gale, and though the Blue Sox loaded the bases, the game remained tied at 5-5.

It stayed that way for the rest of regulation until Wolf and Gale teamed up again in the bottom of the 13th to earn the win. 

Valley doesn’t have much time to regroup before Game 2, but they’re going to play the same kind of baseball that they’ve been playing all season. 

“At the end of the day, we know that they're a good team, they have good players and it's going to be a dogfight,” Wolf said. “We can't really get blinded by that and we just got to go out and play baseball.”

Hannah Bevis can be reached at hbevis@gazettenet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1.

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