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Baserunning chances fail Panthers in 2-0 semifinal loss to Sunapee

  • Pittsfield's Maxwell Tuttle reacts to be called out after trying to steal third base during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}

    Pittsfield's Maxwell Tuttle reacts to be called out after trying to steal third base during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Pittsfield lost 2-0.

    {(credit)} Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Pittsfield's Kyle Hamel (center) reacts to the team's second out in the seventh inning of the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}

    Pittsfield's Kyle Hamel (center) reacts to the team's second out in the seventh inning of the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Pittsfield lost 2-0.

    {(credit)} Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Pittsfield's Jed Eastman adjusts his batting helmet after running to second base during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Pittsfield's Jed Eastman adjusts his batting helmet after running to second base during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Pittsfield lost 2-0.

    {(credit)}




    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Pittsfield's Maxwell Tuttle dives safely back to first base as Sunapee's Matt Coughlin reaches to catch the ball during the Division IV baseball semifinal game at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Pittsfield's Maxwell Tuttle dives safely back to first base as Sunapee's Matt Coughlin reaches to catch the ball during the Division IV baseball semifinal game at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Pittsfield lost 2-0.

    {(credit)}




    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Pittsfield's Jesse Slater gets ready to bat during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Pittsfield's Jesse Slater gets ready to bat during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Pittsfield lost 2-0.

    {(credit)}




    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Pittsfield's Xenthios Cyr bats during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Pittsfield's Xenthios Cyr bats during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Pittsfield lost 2-0.

    {(credit)}




    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Pittsfield's Kris Perkins pitches the ball during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Pittsfield's Kris Perkins pitches the ball during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Pittsfield lost 2-0.

    {(credit)}




    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Pittsfield's Noah Manteau watches his teammates from the dugout during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Pittsfield's Noah Manteau watches his teammates from the dugout during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Pittsfield lost 2-0.

    {(credit)}




    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Pittsfield's Maxwell Tuttle slides into first as Sunapee's Matt Coughlin prepares to catch the ball during the Division IV baseball semifinal game at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Pittsfield's Maxwell Tuttle slides into first as Sunapee's Matt Coughlin prepares to catch the ball during the Division IV baseball semifinal game at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Pittsfield lost 2-0.

    {(credit)}




    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Pittsfield's Colby Clark throws the ball to the infield during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Pittsfield's Colby Clark throws the ball to the infield during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Pittsfield lost 2-0.

    {(credit)}




    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Pittsfield's Maxwell Tuttle reacts to be called out after trying to steal third base during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}
  • Pittsfield's Kyle Hamel (center) reacts to the team's second out in the seventh inning of the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}
  • Pittsfield's Jed Eastman adjusts his batting helmet after running to second base during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Pittsfield's Maxwell Tuttle dives safely back to first base as Sunapee's Matt Coughlin reaches to catch the ball during the Division IV baseball semifinal game at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Pittsfield's Jesse Slater gets ready to bat during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Pittsfield's Xenthios Cyr bats during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Pittsfield's Kris Perkins pitches the ball during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Pittsfield's Noah Manteau watches his teammates from the dugout during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Pittsfield's Maxwell Tuttle slides into first as Sunapee's Matt Coughlin prepares to catch the ball during the Division IV baseball semifinal game at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Pittsfield's Colby Clark throws the ball to the infield during the Division IV baseball semifinal game against Sunapee at Plymouth State University on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Pittsfield lost 2-0.<br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

PLYMOUTH – They were the hallmarks of the Pittsfield baseball team’s march to the championship a year ago. The Panthers ran wild on the basepaths while Kris Perkins shredded lineups. It was a formula that worked time after time, and round after round.

Yesterday, on the same field they won on to enter the Division IV final last June, the story looked familiar. The Panthers again were running. Perkins was again on the mound. This time, however, it was a different ending.

Pittsfield ran into outs early, and Perkins, arguably the division’s top pitcher, was outdueled late by Sunapee’s James Fitzgerald, and the third-seeded Panthers fell to the second-seeded Lakers, 2-0, in the semifinals in a matchup of the last two champions.

“They’re No. 2. We knew they were good, Sunapee, we have a lot of respect for them,” said Pittsfield Coach Rob Stockman, whose team lost to Sunapee, 4-2, in the semifinals two years ago in the last postseason meeting between the squads. “We always have good games against (Coach) Tom (Frederick), and I was telling him it seems we keep coming out on the short end with the playoff ones. But this one’s going to hurt for a while, because I really think we had a better team this year than last year.”

Even as the Panthers (15-4) have turned into one of Division IV’s top programs, they’ve done so without a heavy-hitting offense, and Stockman has made the most of his chances by being bold on the bases. The strategy paid off last year, most notably with seven stolen bases in the semifinals against Colebrook, and Pittsfield was at it again in the fourth inning yesterday with the score knotted at zero when Max Tuttle walked, went to second on a passed ball and took off for third on a steal attempt.

The throw was perfect, however, and Tuttle was nabbed for the second out, clearing the bases with Jed Eastman at the plate. Eastman got another rally started with a single to right, however, and Chris Farr followed with an infield single and Branden Smith had a hard single to left. Stockman aggressively waved Eastman home on the hit, a move that backfired again when Alex Gioldassis’s throw made it home on the fly in time to get the runner for the final out and get the Lakers (16-3) off the hook.

“We had that one inning, the fourth inning. I don’t second guess,” Stockman said. “We’ve always been an aggressive team. … You can’t second-guess yourself in this game. You stay aggressive, that’s what we do.”

It was a missed chance, but one that didn’t appear too costly with Perkins on the hill. The left-hander, who dazzled with 14 strikeouts in the final a year ago, was razor-sharp yesterday afternoon, too, starting with three no-hit innings and recording his fifth strikeout to lead off the fourth.

In another departure from the events of 2013, things began to go wrong for Pittsfield’s ace. Perkins hit the next batter, and the following Laker hitter reached when his slow roller was mishandled down the third base line. A walk loaded the bases, and Sunapee got its first hit and the game’s first run when Fitzgerald singled past a lunging Colby Clark at third, bringing in Ben Robinson for a 1-0 lead.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse when a throwing error at first brought in another run, but umpires ruled interference on the throw, which came from the catcher Farr to complete a 1-2-3 double play.

“They said the ball hit (Sunapee batter Bryson DesChamps) as he was touching the base,” Frederick said. “I didn’t get a great explanation of it. That’s an umpire’s discretion.”

With his team jogging off the field while Frederick pleaded his case, Stockman said he felt momentum was at a tipping point.

“I thought that was a huge break for us,” he said. “I thought we’d come right out the next inning and maybe put a couple of hits up. But we didn’t.”

Any new momentum was just added to Sunapee’s side, as Mike Platt tripled on Perkins’s 1-0 offering to lead off the fifth and came home when Pittsfield’s Jesse Slater slid but couldn’t come up with Matt Coughlin’s fly to right. Perkins (six innings, two hits, six strikeouts) escaped a bases-loaded jam to limit the damage, but the Panthers never mounted a rally against Fitzgerald, who allowed five hits and struck out six – five in the last three innings.

“Fitzy pitched a whale of a game,” Frederick said. “I think he matched Perkins pitch for pitch.”

The outcome was wildly different from the last time Fitzgerald faced the Panthers lineup, a 9-3 Pittsfield win, but Stockman said that was a different pitcher than the one that took the mound yesterday.

“He was getting his curveball over for strikes,” the coach said. “We hit him hard, but he wasn’t getting his curveball over for strikes. Today he was.”

Each out just added to a frustrating afternoon for Pittsfield, the kind they never ran into last June.

“Mostly what we struggled with was hitting, and that kind of showed up today,” said Perkins, who had a single for the Panthers. “We had five hits, we just couldn’t put them together in the right places.”

Tuttle also had a single for the Panthers, a favorite all season that fell just a break or two shy of earning another shot at another title.

“These guys, I’m proud of them. I told them, sometimes the best team doesn’t always win,” Stockman said. “(Sunapee) made a couple more plays than we did.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or at abonifant@cmonitor.com or via Twitter @dbonifant.)

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