North Adams walked off with the A-ball championship this season in walk off style over Peebles on Friday evening.
In a back-and-forth game that saw four lead changes and multiple comebacks, it was an infield error that allowed the North Adams players and fans to celebrate the title.
Both pitchers, Mikey Sheeley from North Adams and Levi Newkirk from Peebles pitched seven innings, Sheeley throwing 122 pitches while Newkirk threw 111.
Peebles, a team seeded fourth out of five teams in the tournament, struck early in the top of the first with the aid of two North Adams errors. Alex Seaman led off the game with a ground ball that third baseman Ben Figgins bobbled. After stealing second, Seaman was brought around on an error by the pitcher giving Peebles the 1-0 lead.
Peebles played add-on in the top of the third when Levi Newkirk led off with a walk and stolen base. Stephen Penn singled to bring in Newkirk and Lane Hanson doubled to bring in Penn. Austin Newkirk grounded out to shortstop for the second out, bringing in Hanson and giving the underdogs a 3-0 lead.
The bottom of the lineup for North Adams awoke in the bottom of the third prompting an immediate response to their deficit. Cole Roades led off with a single on a 3-2 count. Christian Barnes was hit by the next pitch and Patrick England reached on a single to load the bases with nobody out.
After a swinging strikeout by Tyler Horsley, Colt Shumaker lined a single driving in two and Noah Bunn singled on the next pitch, tying the game at 3-3.
Sheeley struck out the side in the top of the fourth and in the bottom half Ben Figgins came home from second on a single by Roades giving North Adams their first lead of the game at 4-3.
Peebles wasn’t going to lay down quietly and immediately responded in the top of the fifth with Seaman and Levi Newkirk both taking walks on four pitches each. Stolen bases by both as well as a passed ball allowed Seaman to score on a ground-out by Hanson and Austin Newkirk reached on an error to bring home his brother Levi to regain the lead for Peebles at 5-4.
Both teams failed to score until the bottom of the sixth when the middle of the lineup struck big for North Adams. Seth Daulton singled, reached second on a balk and third on an error by the catcher Seaman.
After Nathan Davis was hit by a pitch, Kenny Branch hit a sacrifice fly bringing in Daulton to tie the game. Figgins singled in the next at bat to bring home Davis, giving North Adams a 6-5 lead heading into the final inning.
Seaman led off the top of the seventh with a single and took second on a stolen base. Penn singled, advancing Seaman to third with no outs. A wild pitch took Penn to second and Hanson, the cleanup hitter, came through with a single on a 3-2 pitch scoring Seaman to tie the game but Penn was thrown out at home on a tight play leaving North Adams needing only one run to win in the seventh.
Barnes singled on the first pitch of the seventh and advanced to second on a wild pitch, then tagged up on a ball hit to the outfield and stood on third with two outs bringing up Bunn.
Bunn hit a soft ground ball to the right of the pitcher on a 1-2 count causing Newkirk to lose his balance, falling to the ground. Newkirk still managed to get a throw off in time to first base, but his throw sailed out of the reach of the first baseman, allowing Barnes to scamper home from third to seal the championship.
“I was hoping it would be a bad throw but I knew I had to run it out either way because I knew that’s not how I wanted my high school career to end,” Bunn said.
In the end, Levi Newkirk was hit with the tough-luck loss after throwing much longer than Peebles head coach Brian Seaman anticipated, striking out four and walking none in the losing effort.
“Our starting pitcher that I had planned on never showed up until five minutes before so [Levi] wasn’t even prepared but he went out there and just threw strikes,” Seaman said. “[Levi] hasn’t thrown seven innings, I don’t think he’s even thrown three innings consecutively all year. So that’s the heart I love about this team. Any of them will do anything I ask them. Levi doesn’t play high school ball but gets out there and pitches seven innings against a high school team.”
Sheeley got the win for North Adams and said it felt good to beat a team that had improved as much as Peebles did since they last met in the regular season.
“It feels good. It feels really good especially beating a team like that,” Sheeley said. “I mean we beat them during the regular season pretty badly but they got better obviously so it feels pretty good.”
Seaman said the game was one filled with breaks for either side, his side just caught the final bad break.
“Both teams caught good and bad breaks throughout and right there at the end a bad break caught us,” Seaman said. “That’s baseball.”
Reach Charles Grove at 937-544-2391, email@example.com or @WUDefender on Twitter.