Published: 6/18/2021 9:37:58 PM
TURNERS FALLS — The Smith Academy duo of Will Dobson and Michael Bassett pitched the No. 9 Falcons to a 2-1 win over Franklin Tech in the opening round of the Western Mass. Division 4 Tournament Friday afternoon.
The junior-senior combo combined for only three strikeouts, as they relied on their defense behind them to dispatch the eighth-seeded Eagles (9-7). Dobson allowed the lone run in the first inning on a Cayden Lehtomaki double before settling in and cruising to the fifth inning without any further damage.
Bassett took the mound in the bottom of the fifth and retired all nine batters he faced to slam the door on the Falcons’ (8-5) win.
Smith Academy head coach Mike Afflitto commended his pitchers’ performances.
“Credit goes to Will Dobson stepping in there and giving us four strong ones,” Afflitto said. “(Bassett) is our senior leader, he’s been that way all year … It was a gutsy performance for both of them.”
The Falcons’ winning run came in the top of the fourth inning after Dobson helped his own cause with a single to center field. He quickly stole second base and made it to third on a fielder’s choice.
That brought junior first baseman Wyatt Jeffress to the plate. Jeffress lifted the ball to right field, forcing Tech’s right fielder to make a diving attempt at the ball. The ball initially landed in the outfielder’s glove, but contact with the ground forced the ball out, bringing Dobson across the plate as Jeffress scampered to second base.
Afflitto said Dobson’s steal to put him into scoring position was part of the game plan to manufacture runs and sometimes it comes down to a bang-bang play.
“That was a terrific high school baseball game. That is exactly what tournament baseball should be about,” Afflitto said. “Part of the game plan was to get guys on and get into scoring position any way possible.”
Smith Academy’s first run in the third inning was also the result of scrappy play. Sam Dobson singled to right field and took second base on an errant pickoff attempt. He then swiped third and was driven in on a bloop single from senior Nate Moynihan.
Franklin Tech head coach Dan Prasol said it was a well-played game but Smith Academy made “just a few more plays.”
“That’s one heck of a ball game,” Prasol said. “Anytime you have a 2-1 ballgame where the balls have been put in play — I think there was one, maybe two strikeouts — that’s how baseball is supposed to be played.”
Eagles junior pitcher Jake Whitney was the hard-luck loser. He allowed two runs and worked around seven hits over six-plus innings.
Prasol praised Whitney’s performance and said having players like him around puts the team in a good spot heading into next season.
“I’m thrilled with Jake, he’s coming back next year. He’s going to be a huge leader on this team, he kept us in the game,” Prasol said. “I couldn’t be more proud of how these boys played, they fought right to the end and I think it’s a testament to the future of this program and this group of kids.”
Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.