BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — In the Berkeley Heights regional final of the Last Dance tournament Thursday evening, the Westfield Blue Devil baseball team dropped a 5-1 contest to Berkeley Heights-Mountainside at Snyder Avenue Park.
With both teams coming in 2-0 in tournament pool play, the BH-Mountainside White Sox broke the game open with a three-run sixth inning, on six walks.
For Westfield, BH-Mountainside pitcher Michael Shaffer was simply too much to overcome.
“I thought their pitcher did a great job,” said Westfield coach Kenny Miller. “He held us in check. He had command of his fastball. The number one thing in the game is to get guys on base, and he kept us off base. He did a fantastic job.”
Shaffer, who is a member of the Class of 2021 at Governor Livingston High School, went six innings and settled in after Westfield struck first in the top of the first inning.
For Shaffer, he said his curveball and familiarity with the opposition really helped him along the way Thursday evening.
“We had great pitching calls,” he said. “I know a lot of the kids I played against; I know what they like and what they don’t. I was playing for the seniors pretty much. I want to get them as many games as I can.”
Shaffer finished the game with nine strikeouts, keeping Westfield off balance throughout the night.
The BH-Mountainside White Sox will meet Don Bosco as the Last Dance tournament resumes on Tuesday, July 21.
On Thursday, Westfield delivered the first blow after Dan Kohler’s RBI single scored Chris Ho to give the Blue Devils an early 1-0 advantage.
Holden Grantz, a rising senior for the Blue Devils, was efficient on the mound.
Westfield continued to hold a 1-0 advantage until the third inning. Briant Bazydlo led off the bottom half with a double. An errant throw to second eventually scored Bazydlo, and then BH-Mountainside took a 2-1 lead after Sean McCulloch’s RBI single, scoring Vince Meullusi.
“It was a 2-2 count, and I was just trying to protect,” McCulloch said. “I was seeing a lot of off-speed. I was able to drive it to left-center.”
The Blue Devils were able to avoid further damage and got out of the inning down a run.
Grantz saw more danger in the bottom of the fifth inning after the White Sox got the bases loaded with no outs.
The Westfield pitcher was able to keep his composure, and he got out danger as the Blue Devils still were down just a run.
Shaffer continued to deal. After a tough first inning, he only allowed a double to Westfield’s Jack Love in the top of the fifth.
The Blue Devils went for a pitching change in the bottom of the sixth. BH-Mountainside was able to capitalize on six walks, and its lead blossomed to 5-1 after six innings.
“That was huge,” McCulloch said of the late runs, “especially for our pitcher. He could really give all the stuff that he had without worrying about one run scoring.”
“We needed to throw strikes, and we didn’t get it,” Miller added. “I’m more disappointed in the way we approached the game. We didn’t deal well with adversity.”
Sam Bass, a Class of 2020 Gov. Livingston graduate, came on for the White Sox in the top of the seventh to close it out. With tensions mounting, Bass saw some early trouble in the inning, but he was eventually able to close out the game on a strikeout.
For Miller, he was happy for the Westfield baseball players, especially the recent graduates, after a 2-1 week.
“It was awesome for these kids to have one last chance,” he said.
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