|North End Edges North Berkshire Squad at La Festa Baseball Exchange|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires.com Sports|
10:38PM / Saturday, July 24, 2021
|George Canales, second from the left, was recognized in pregame ceremonies for his role in the 30-year-old program that unites North Adams with Boston's North End.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Despite a furious comeback effort by the team from North Berkshires, the North End hung on for a 7-5 win in Friday's opener of the La Festa Baseball Exchange.
The players from both teams will hang on to the memories of the weekend even longer.
"At the cookout today, when the kids sat down to eat, it wasn't by team," organizer George Canales said during Saturday's pregame ceremonies at Joe Wolfe Field. "It was three kids from North Adams and three kids from the North End.
"Winning and losing isn't everything in this game. It's the friendships that are made. Just have fun tonight."
Canales would know. Saturday marked the start of the 30th edition of La Festa, which returned after a year's absence due to the pandemic.
As part of the ceremonies, Canales, his family and other key volunteers who have made the event such a success, were recognized with special citations from Boston Mayor Kim Janey for the hospitality the Steeple City has shown to Boston youngsters over the last three decades.
Next weekend, the North End squad will have a chance to return the favor, when it hosts the North Berkshire team, which included players from North Adams, Adams, Florida, Williamstown and Bennington, Vt.
Everyone hopes that the teams will get to play the second game of the North Adams leg of the exchange on Sunday morning. But in light of the weather forecast, organizers decided to play a nine-inning game on Saturday instead of the planned seven-inning contest just to make sure everyone had a little bit more time on the field.
The home team nearly made that a very consequential decision.
It was 7-3, North End, after five innings of play, and Boston pitcher Alex Parisi was locked in, allowing just four hits and striking out 12 through seven innings of play.
Parisi, who was chosen by the North Berkshire coaches as the North End's MVP, gave the ball to Matt Griffin to start the eighth inning.
Griffin walked a couple with one out in the bottom of the eighth but got out of trouble with a foul pop to his catcher and a called third strike.
In the ninth, North Adams' Logan Crockwell led off with an infield single, and Vance Kobelia was hit by a pitch with one out.
Crockwell stole third and came home on an RBI groundout from Paul Dale to make it 7-4.
Jack Dolan then singled to center field to bring in Kobelia, and Sean Moriarty singled to right to put runners at the corners.
Moriarty stole second to put the tying run in scoring position. But Griffin came up big for the North End, registering his second strikeout to end the inning and the night.
The night started with the North End building a picket fence, scoring single runs in the first, third and fourth to take a 3-0 lead.
North Berkshire, meanwhile, went down in order in its first three tries.
But it broke through against Parisi for four hits and three runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Brady Vallieres, Crockwell, Walter Mazza and Kobelia each singled in the rally to tie it, 3-3.
Crockwell ended up going 2-for-4 with a walk, an RBI and two runs scored and was named the North Berkshire MVP by the North End coaches.
The game did not stay tied for long. North End got four hits and cashed in on two North Berkshire errors in the top of the fifth to pull ahead, 7-3.
North Berkshire used three pitchers in the contest. Walter Mazza, Kobelia and Connor Barrett combined for 12 strikeouts.