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Berkshire Thunder Rallies Late to Earn BABL 35-Year-Old Title
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires.com Sports
05:49PM / Sunday, August 29, 2021
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ADAMS, Mass. -- The Berkshire Thunder Sunday afternoon was down three runs and down to its last three outs.
 
It was also down two of the starters it began the day with. It was reeling after allowing three unearned runs to lose the lead in the bottom of the fifth. And it was playing an opponent that went 14-0 in the Berkshire Adult Baseball League regular season and carried a 17-1 record into Game 3 of their best-of-three championship series.
 
But the Thunder found a way.
 
Paul McBride and Corey Lemuth delivered two RBIs apiece in the seventh, and Jake Barbarotta went the distance on the mound to lead Berkshire to a 6-5 win over the Adams Aces and a BABL 35-year-old Division Championship on Hoosac Valley High School’s field.
 
“We’ve been a good team all year long,” player/manager Mike Burns said. “We made some mistakes here and there, and we made a bunch here today. We just kept fighting and scrapping. We have a great pitching staff and a bunch of good guys who step up when their time is called.”
 
McBride, Barbarotta and Lemuth went a combined 6-for-11 with five RBIs in the seventh, eighth and ninth spots in the Berkshire lineup. Barbarotta, who threw 17 innings with a 4.85 ERA in the team’s first 16 games, struck out five, walked two and allowed two earned runs in a complete-game effort in Sunday’s season finale.
 
Down in South County, the Great Barrington Millers earned a 2-0 sweep of Berkshire Baseball Academy with a 13-3 win in the second game of their 20-year-old Division final.
 
The Thunder, who have traded the league trophy back-and-forth with Adams in some epic playoff battles the last couple of years, went into Sunday morning’s game needing a win to stay alive after taking a 5-2 loss in Saturday’s opener.
 
A big pitching performance by Lemuth and a 3-for-3 performance at the plate from Paul McBride propelled Berkshire to a 12-6 win to force the winner-take-all Game 3 on Sunday afternoon.
 
Riding the momentum from its Game 2 win, the Thunder grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second inning of the deciding game.
 
McBride singled and scored on a single by Lemuth, who moved up on a walk and scored from second on Seamus Morrison’s single to right.
 
The Aces cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the third when Gary Munson singled to drive in Matt Larabee.
 
In the fifth, Larabee delivered a leadoff double to start a four-run Adams rally. He came home on a single by Dan Corbett to tie the game.
 
With two out and runners at second and third, a ball to the backstop on a called third strike extended the inning, gave Adams a 3-2 lead and put runners at the corners for Swistak. His bomb to right-center went for a triple and plated Corbett and Travis Lanski to put Adams ahead, 5-2.
 
The dropped third strike that keyed the four-run inning came after Berkshire starting catcher Kevin Robinson was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the bottom of the second.
 
In the top of the sixth, Adams pitcher Corey Hillard worked around a one-out Barborotta single to preserve the three-run margin.
 
After Barbarotta survived a two-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, Berkshire was down to its last chance with the top of the order coming to bat.
 
Morrison singled and went to third on a fielder’s choice when Tom Bishop reached on a fielder’s choice that led to an error at second. D.J. Clark was hit by a pitch with one out to load the bases, but Hillard got the next man on a called third strike.
 
With two out, McBride singled down the right field line to drive in Morrison and Bishop and make it 5-4. The Aces chose to intentionally walk Barbarotta, who had hits in his last two at-bats, and Lemuth made them pay with a two-run single down the left-field line to make it 6-5.
 
Berkshire’s patchwork infield committed two errors in the bottom of the seventh that helped put the tying run on third base with two out and the dangerous Swistak -- who just missed out on the league batting title to teammate Pete Greenbush -- at the plate.
 
But Barbarotta got Swistak to fly out deep to center fielder Matt Marquis to end the game.
 
“Pitching depth was everything for us,” said Burns, who used three pitchers in Sunday’s opener. “[Barbarotta] was unbelievable, to go a full game like that. Jake hasn’t pitched more than two innings in one game for us all year.
 
“We’ve been saving him. It’s Jake’s first year in the league. He hasn’t pitched in 12 years. We’re not going to burn his arm out. We took him in slow. I didn’t think he’d go past four [innings]. I was hoping he’d get three anyway. It’s unbelievable he lasted the whole game. He threw a dynamite game. It’s crazy.”
 
Game 2
Berkshire Thunder 12, Adams Aces 6
Adams jumped out to an early lead on a two-run Pat Ryan home run in the bottom of the first and led, 5-1, after three innings on Sunday morning.
 
But Berkshire rallied for five runs in the top of the fourth and never looked back.
 
McBride and Bishop each hit a two-run single in that five-run rally.
 
In the fifth, McBride added a two-run double as the Thunder stretched its lead to 9-5.
 
An RBI double by Clark in the sixth and a two-run Jesus Lay single in the seventh put the game out of reach.
 
Lemuth got the win on the mound with 4-⅔ innings of relief work. After allowing just two unearned runs in the bottom of the third, Lemuth held Adams to two base runners in the next two innings. He left with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the sixth, but Brad Shove ended the threat with a diving catch in right to preserve a 10-5 lead.
 
The game was marred by a seventh-inning injury to Berkshires outfielder Livernay Vasallo, who hurt his ankle sliding into third base and needed to leave the field in an ambulance. Vasallo went 1-for-4 at the plate, singling and scoring a run in the decisive fourth-inning rally.
 
 
20-Year-Old Division
Great Barrington 13, BBA 3
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. -- Oliver Cookson and Alex Salazar each had three hits and three RBIs as the Millers completed a two-game sweep in their championship series in a game shortened by the 10-run rule..
 
Cookson also delivered a three-run home run in the fourth to help open a 10-2 lead.
 
Tyler Spofford went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and three RBIs in an 11-hit Great Barrington attack.
 
Chip Paul earned the win on the mound, striking out seven and walking two in five innings of work. Brooks Belter struck out the side after allowing an unearned run in the top of the sixth.
 
Mike Massery went 2-for-3 with a two-run home run, and Rich Dumas went 2-for-2 for Berkshire Baseball Academy.
 
Dumas took the loss with a complete-game, 5-⅓-inning effort.
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