LACONIA – Sunapee and Pittsfield were playing for a chance at a championship appearance, and each team made it known on Tuesday.
A well-played game by both sides, this one took 11 innings to decide the winner, as Pittsfield was finally able to fend off Sunapee with a bases-loaded walk-off in the bottom of the eleventh to win 4-3 and advance to the D-IV baseball state championship game on Saturday.
It was Sunapee who first took the lead in extras, as they went up 3-2 on a standup double from Jordan Chappelle in the top of the tenth that scored Harper Flint. But, Pittsfield had the answer, as Kyle Stockman drove in a run in the bottom of the tenth with a rope to right field to tie the game at 3.
And, that wasn’t even Stockman’s biggest hit of the day.
Sunapee led 2-0 through five and a half innings, but a two-run homer to left field from Stockman in the bottom of the sixth halted the Lakers’ momentum and put the Panthers right back in the game with one swing of the bat. The swing came with a full count and two outs.
Before that swing, the Lakers were flawless on defense and Gabe Hastings had only allowed two hits and four walks on the mound.
Hastings had six putouts on the mound, as he kept gobbling up dribblers and line drives. Behind Hastings, the Lakers turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the third inning as Flint made the miraculous stretch at first.
Flint came on to pitch to end the sixth inning and the defense was still producing at that time in the game.
The Lakers’ defense came up big in the eighth inning with the game still tied at 2. With one out and a runner on first, a tough chopper was hit at shortstop Jackson Cooney. Cooney handled it and threw it over to Quinn Fair, who replaced Flint at first, for the out. And, Fair playing heads-up ball, slung it over to third and Chappelle was able to tag out the runner trying to sneak over to get out of the inning.
But, it was the Panthers that kept hitting the ball when it mattered, and that was the case in the bottom of the eleventh. Pittsfield was able to load the bases with one out after a walk, a single, and another runner reaching by error. That brought up DJ Zensky, who drilled a ball deep down the right field line, and Pittsfield was able to secure the win despite a solid and disciplined showing from the Lakers.
Flint got the Lakers’ offense on the board in the third inning, as his base-knock to center scored Matt Nangeroni.
In the top of the fourth, Sean Moynihan added another run. He was able to lay down a bunt on a high fast ball perfectly down the first-base line to score Lane Smith. Immediately following that play, Moynihan tried to get in a pickle between first and second to buy time for Drew Clifford to score from third. And, it almost worked, but the throw back home was in time to tag Clifford out and the Panthers held the Lakers to just two runs up to that point.
The Lakers had a regular season record of 14-2.
With the win, No. 2 Pittsfield will take on No. 4 Newmarket after the Mules beat No. 1 Woodsville 8-0 in the night cap.