Winning pitcher Jake Girard sets to fire a pitch toward the plate
WESTPORT — The rag-tag, gritty Westport Bulldogs Post 145 stayed alive in the Massachusetts American Legion District 9 playoffs when they defeated a seemingly more polished Easton Post 7 squad by a 6-3 margin Wednesday night at Westport High School.
Westport, which dropped the first game in the best-of-three series 10-0 Monday, forced a winner-take-all game Thursday, July 25, at Frothingham Park in Easton.
“I think we have the momentum going in,” Westport second baseman Andrew Dessert said. “They used a lot of their aces today. I think we have a good chance of coming back and winning the series.”
Easton used five different pitchers, three of whom will be playing baseball at Division One schools in the fall. Starter Troy Whitty is Louisiana State bound, left reliever Ryan O’Shea heads to Central Michigan and fellow reliever Dave MacKinnon will attend the University of Hartford. The Bulldogs knew who they were facing but after an initial at bat for each player, it didn’t appear to phase them.
“We thought about that at first,” Dessert said. “Then we realized it’s just another pitcher. Just make contact when the pitch comes in. They supply the power.”
Dessert had a double to get the Westport offense moving in the third inning and a key, go-ahead, two-run single in the fourth when the Bulldogs scored five runs. He also was the middle man in a relay who supplied the throw to home plate for an out which stopped Easton from a big rally in the top of the fourth.
“We just had to give it our all and we knew we had a shot. We just let it all out,” Dessert said. “We had nothing to lose. We’re just a bunch of scrappy kids giving it our all and having fun. It was a good experience.”
While the visitors used five different pitchers, Jake Girard was the lone hurler for Westport. He allowed nine hits, walked one and struck out one in his complete-game effort.
“Jake did a great job,” Westport manager Jay Pacheco said. “He three-hit them two weeks ago up there when we beat them 2-1. I was a little worried about bringing him back in a game like this, an elimination game, after they’d already seen him. He’s gutsy. I can’t say enough about his performance.”
Easton scored a run in the opening inning and Whitty struck out the Westport leadoff batter in the bottom of the frame. But Whitty, who fires the ball around 90 miles-per-hour, showed vulnerability. He had just one more strikeout in his three innings of work and walked three.
Westport got to him in the third when Dessert lined a one-out double to right center and Ian Chaney followed with a single up the middle to score him and tie the game 1-1. With momentum on Westport’s side, Easton tried to steal it back in the top of the fourth.
Post 7 got back-to-back, one-out hits to put runners on second and third and then another single which scored one run. When another runner tried to score on the play right fielder Nate Maynard threw to second baseman Dessert and he fired to catcher Jake Friar who put the tag on the runner for the second out of the inning. The next hitter popped out and Easton had to be content with its 2-1 lead.
“It kind of goes through our minds as it’s a good play, but, whatever,” Pacheco said. “But in the end, when you look back at it, it’s an absolutely huge play. It holds them back.
“It stopped them right there in that inning. They didn’t score again after that when they would have had two runs in and probably another guy in scoring position. It’s a great relay and a great job by Jake holding onto the ball at the plate.”
The Bulldogs came right back at Easton in the bottom of the inning when reliever Chris Servello hit both Brendan Hall and Chris Mulvey with pitches with one out to open the flood gates. JP Bonanca singled to load the bases and MacKinnon was summoned to the mound. Dessert didn’t waste any time greeting him, hitting the first pitch on a line to left center to plate two runs and give the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead.
“I faced that kid two other previous times. I knew he was coming in with a fastball,” Dessert said. “He throws hard. I just wanted to jump on it because I knew that was going to be the best pitch I was going to see.”
MacKinnon walked Ian Chaney and Jack Murphy in succession to force home another run. He was lifted with a hand injury after falling behind Friar 3-and-1. O’Shea came in and finished the walk forcing home another run. Westport scored its final run of the inning on an error to take a 6-2 lead.
“I thought we hit the ball well,” Pacheco said. “But in our big inning it wasn’t really about the hits it was about doing what they allow us to do. The walks and the hit batters and the couple of timely hits we got were obviously beneficial.”
Easton went down in order in the fifth, stranded two runners in the sixth, scored on a sacrifice fly in the seventh but left runners at first and second to end the game. The scrappy Bulldogs lived to play another day.