The third time was definitely the charm for the Mount St. Joseph baseball team.
After losing twice to Marble Valley League small school champion Twin Valley during the regular season, the Mounties turned the tables in the third meeting, posting a 7-1 victory in the Division IV semifinal Tuesday at St. Peter’s Field.
Second-seeded MSJ improved to 12-5 and will go to their second title game in three years. The Mounties take on No. 1 Blue Mountain (14-3) at Centennial Field date and time to be determined. No. 3 Twin Valley finished up at 10-8.
Left-hander Zack Lanzillo lived dangerously but earned the complete-game victory, scattering six hits and issuing three walks while striking out six.
"My arm wasn’t feeling too great but my defense stepped up, we got some big hits and we came up with a win," said Lanzillo, who admitted he had to battle. "This is kind of the way it’s been with many of my games. But I find a way to get out of it."
Lanzillo was masterful at pitching out of trouble. The long lefty stranded nine Wildcat runners in scoring position, while yielding the lone run in the top of the third.
The tone was set in the first inning when Wildcat leadoff hitter Colin Lozito was gunned down at the plate for the first out of the frame on an aborted squeeze. Twin Valley’s No. 2 hitter Dal Nesbitt was then left stranded at third when Lanzillo struck out Brett Swanson and induced a soft liner from cleanup hitter Sam Molner to end the inning.
"We left too many men on base," said Wildcat coach Jimmy Burke. "We played a good game but needed to play a better game. But we have nothing to hang our heads about. This is the first Twin Valley (baseball) team to make it to the semis and we won the Marble Valley League."
MSJ had the answers all day for what Twin Valley presented.
After the Wildcats scored in the third, the Mounties responded in the bottom of the frame with two runs on Shane Protivansky’s two-run double to take the lead for keeps.
MSJ added a single run in the fourth, two more in the fifth and topped the day with a pair in the sixth.
The Mounties rapped out 10 hits off a trio of Twin Valley pitchers. Wildcat starter Molner went 4 1/3 innings, yielded seven hits and three runs, and took the loss.
MSJ coach Jacob Downey used his entire roster -- shuttling in pinch runners and getting results. The Mountie speed made things happen on the base paths.
MSJ scored on a throw to first on a dropped third strike, scored from third when a runner was issued a walk and kept going to second, and scored twice after stealing bases.
"We try to have fun first thing," said Downey, who also guided the Mounties to a title game in 2012, in five years at the helm.
"I have a fast team," he said. "I’ve got kids that can handle the bat, bunt in key situations and can bring four kids off the bench that can fly. Speed is a luxury we have and we take advantage of it."
Eight different Mounties hit safely, with Tyler Billings and Nate O’Shea chipping in two hits apiece. Collin Gilbert and Brandon Wortman each scored twice.
Lozito collected two of Twin Valley’s five hits, was on base three times, added a stolen base and a sacrifice to pace the Wildcats. Cade Nesbitt went 1-for-1 and scord his team’s lone run on a third-inning RBI by Brett Swanson.
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WELLS RIVER -- In Tuesday’s Division 4 varsity softball semifinal, ninth-seeded Twin Valley was eliminated by No. 4 Blue Mountain, 6-2.
The Wildcats wound up with a 7-11 record, including a 15-1 rout of Twinfield in a playdown game and a 7-6 upset of top-seeded West Rutland in a quarterfinal.
Blue Mountain will face Black River in Friday’s 4 p.m. championship game in Poultney.