PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Berkshire Force 12-and-under softball team opened play in the Babe Ruth New England Regional with two very different games that one very important thing in common: Each was a Force victory to give the home team the top seed going into Sunday morning’s semi-finals.
Michaela Hinckley and Amdanda Pou combined on a one-hitter in Berkshire’s 2-0 win over Burlington, Mass., in Saturday’s opener.
In the afternoon, Mia Arpante did not allow any hits in an 11-1, four-inning win over Auburn, Maine.
The victories mean that the Force will host the tourney’s fourth seed at 9 a.m. Sunday in an elimination game to get to the 2 p.m. Championship at Doyle Field.
Teams from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut are competing in five different age groups over three days this weekend, seeking a berth in the Babe Ruth World Series.
The host Force entered two teams in the regional: the 12U and 10U squads. The younger squad Saturday afternoon beat Raynham, Mass., 12-2, to win their best-of-three series, 2-0, and claim the New England Regional crown.
A.J. Pelkey went 2-for-3 with a home run, and Mia DeJesus and Madison Barber each tripled in the win for the 10U squad.
Berkshire’s Gionnah LeVardi struck out 10 in the regional title-clinching win.
The Force’s U10 team includes: Mariah Barnes, Jaezsa Bartolotta, Chelsea Capitanio, Kylie Duhamel, Madeline Harrington, Evelyn Julieano, Grace Julieano, Lillian MacDonald, Izabela Miller and Ella Stodden.
The defending regional champion Berkshire Force 12U squad sat out Friday’s action as this year’s regional got underway but wasted no time doing damage on Saturday morning.
In the top of the second against Burlington, Hickley drew a one-out walk, moved up on a wild pitch and an error and scored on a wild pitch to give herself a 1-0 lead.
In the circle, she surrendered just one hit in four innings of work. It came with two out in the bottom of the second and was followed by a walk and a wild pitch to give Burlington two runners in scoring position. But Hinckley got the next hitter to ground back to the circle, ending the threat.
Hinckely retired the side in order the next two innings, getting some help from catcher Isabella McDonald, who threw out a runner attempting to steal second in the bottom of the third.
In the top of the fourth, Pou scored after drawing a two-out walk. She stole second and came home when Arpante reached on an outfield error to make it 2-0.
Pou then went to the circle to finish the game. She earned four strikeouts in the bottom of the fifth, K’ing each batter she faced, including the one who reached on a passed ball.
In the sixth, Pou closed the game and a 1-2-3 inning with a swinging strike to protect the two-run margin.
While offense was hard to come by in the morning, Berkshire rolled up at least two runs in each inning of its afternoon contest against Auburn.
Audrina Maloney delivered the big blow early with a triple to right-center that scored Arpante in the top of the first. Maloney came home on a groundout by McDonald to make it 2-0.
Berkshire added four in the second thanks to singles from Paxton Ebling and Pou and a couple of Auburn errors.
The visitors used a walk, a stolen base, a groundout and a passed ball to pick up an unearned run against Arpante in the bottom of the second, closing to within 6-1.
But Berkshire added three in the third.
Cheyenne Goddard led off with a walk, stole second and came home on a couple of wild pitches. Brianna Lynch earned a one-out walk, moved up on a groundout and Pou’s single up the middle and scored on Arpante’s infield single.
Pou went to third on that single and scored on a wild pitch to push the lead to 9-1.
In the fourth, Maloney and McDonald each singled to start a two-run rally that pushed the lead to 10 runs, bringing the mercy rule into play.
Auburn got a runner to first with one out in the bottom of the fourth, though, thanks to a passed ball on a third strike, a sacrifice bunt and a stolen base.
But Arpante got the second out on a swinging strike and the final out on a groundout to wrap things up.
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