Legion baseball: James Lavallee powers Northampton Post 28 past Longmeadow

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 06-12-2024 9:17 PM

NORTHAMPTON — After James Lavallee gave up a hit to the first Longmeadow batter he faced in his first-ever inning pitching for Northampton Post 28, he wasted no time settling in.

Lavallee struck the next two batters out and got the following one to ground out to end the frame. Northampton posted four runs in the first and three more in the second to give the Smith Vocational rising senior plenty of cushion to work with at his home field, and he went on to strike out a dozen in a complete-game effort as Post 28 defeated Longmeadow 7-1 in an American Legion Senior Division game on Wednesday night at Arcanum Field.

The one Longmeadow run Lavallee surrendered was unearned, and he scattered just two hits and one walk in a dominant performance in his Northampton Legion debut.

His outing earned him the game ball from head coach Adam Krol.

“It’s a huge confidence booster since it was my first start with this team,” Lavallee said. “It feels great to get the game ball. I felt good, and everything was working. When everything is working, it’s pretty much unstoppable. The defense helped behind me, and the bats came early.”

“He’s a great pitcher, great hitter and great leader on this team,” Krol added of Lavallee. “He’s a humble kid and he embodies what this culture is about. He comes from a great family and we’re very lucky to have him.”

Bailey Davis started the early rally with a leadoff single in the bottom of the first, followed by a sharp ground ball off the bat of Griffin Smiarowski that scooted by Longmeadow’s shortstop. Lavallee then crushed a double into the right-center gap to score both runs, and he later came to the plate – as did Elijah Rubinstein (walk) – via an Andrew Gagne two-out, two-run single.

The wind was taken out of Longmeadow’s sails almost immediately. The start couldn’t have been any more perfect for Krol’s crew.

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“You wanna start the game off right at the first pitch, because anything can happen in the beginning, and if you don’t get out on the right foot that could be the difference in the entire game,” Krol said. “You gotta have laser focus as soon as the first pitch is thrown, and that’s what our guys had. There are some things to improve on, but they did a great job. The momentum you get from getting ahead early is huge, and you saw the result today.”

After Lavallee fanned the first two hitters he faced in the second, Longmeadow’s Francis Duquette drew a two-out walk. A few pitches into the at-bat, Lavallee caught Duquette leaning at first, and fired a throw over to pick him off and end the inning.

Northampton’s red-hot bats were back in action.

Longmeadow worked for two quick outs, but Smiarowski connected for his second hard-hit ball of the day to start a two-out rally with a single. Lavallee followed suit with his second base knock, then Liam Flynn lined one well into right field to clear the bases (Asher Garretson courtesy ran for Lavallee) as he navigated into third for a triple.

Rubinstein plated Flynn with a single to make it 7-0 after two frames.

“Once your team puts up runs, it gives you a lot of confidence,” Lavallee said. “After that I was just doing my job.”

Six different Post 28 players combined for nine hits in the win, and everyone put solid swings on the ball even if they didn’t fall for hits. Northampton only struck out two times on Wednesday.

Although Krol told his team in the post-game huddle that they need to be better at finishing games – not fizzling out offensively – as competition increases, he was still happy to see everyone contributing.

“It’s not just one through nine, it’s one through 18 for us,” Krol said. “It’s important because guys get hurt, guys need rest, guys go on vacation this time of year. The guys know that they can rely on each other, and we’re lucky for that. We’ve got a great team and they’re all ready for their opportunity.”

Longmeadow pushed its lone run across in the sixth after Joe Wilkinson – who recorded each of his team’s two hits – reached on an error and then scored on a ground ball later in the inning.

That error was the lone miscue Post 28 made all game, a big step up from their season-opening win on Monday.

“A lot of this game comes down to defense, making sure your pitcher doesn’t have to throw extra pitches,” Krol said. “I stressed that to the guys before tonight because we made a lot of errors on Monday. We really cleaned that up, and it helps being at home, but the guys buckled down and it all comes back to focus.”

Northampton (2-0) travels to Belchertown Post 239 on Friday evening for a 5:45 p.m. contest with their Hampshire County foe.

Belchertown 5, Westfield 3 — A four-run fifth inning powered Belchertown post 239 to a win on Wednesday. Beau Elson tallied three hits, one run and an RBI including a double, Chace Earle smacked an RBI double and Jake Waller, Brady Perkins and Evan Ferguson added RBIs.

Thatcher Rudnik pitched a gem on the mound, going all seven innings while striking out eight. Rudnik scattered six hits and two walks. Westfield scraped two runs across in the seventh, but Rudnik shut the door to help Belchertown to victory.

Both Northampton Post 28 and Belchertown Post 239 will enter Friday’s meeting with a 2-0 record.