AMHERST, Mass. - An impressive playoff run came to a tough conclusion on Saturday at Earl Lorden Field at the University of Massachusetts, as the Lenox Millionaires fell, 4-1, to the Hopkins Hawks in the Western Mass Division IV championship.
“Like I just told them, they should be proud and keep their heads up,” Lenox head coach Kevin Downer said. “Sometimes things don’t work out the way that you want them to work out. But we will be back next year, trust me. This experience will help them big time. We had a fantastic year. We got off to a slow start but they got hot in the tournament and made it to the Western Mass Finals. What more can you ask for? Yeah, I’m upset, but in a way I am not, because I am just so proud of these guys.”
The Millionaires came into the contest seeking their third Western Mass title and first since the 2016 season, but were unable to overcome an early deficit. Hopkins starting pitcher Jack Feltovic proved tough to figure out, as he went the distance and allowed just two hits on the day. Feltovic struck out six while giving up just two walks and two hit batsmen.
“I take my hat off to Hopkins. Their coach is a class act and I congratulate them on winning the Western Mass. They outplayed us today,” Downer said.
Hopkins (15-6) struck right away and took a 1-0 lead with its first swings in the bottom of the first. Kouji Ishida rolled a base hit up the middle, stole second and then rounded third to score when Feltovic crushed a shot into the left field corner for an RBI double.
The Hawks added another run in the second. Catcher Matt Hanscom led off with a base hit on a flare into shallow left, Andrew Ciaglo was hit by a pitch and Braedon Tudryn found a hole between the third baseman and shortstop for an RBI single.
Lenox (14-10) responded to cut that deficit in half with a run in the fourth. Jett Steinman and Ricky Armstrong were both hit by pitches to put a pair of base runners on to start the frame, and Payton Doyle connected on a shot into the left field corner for an RBI double that made it a 2-1 ball game.
Feltovic rebounded to get out of the jam, inducing an infield grounder and then getting a called third strike to the next two batters.
“Being aggressive with runners in scoring position was the key, but today we went down looking three times with a runner on second base,” Downer said. “We’ve been preaching to these guys all the way through the tournament and they hadn’t let me down, but today we had three guys go down there.”
Hopkins tacked on the final two runs to supply more breathing room in the fifth. Ishida and Feltovic walked leading off, and Scanlon-Dean followed with a blooper to shallow right field that found the grass to load up the bases. Lenox came up with a big out by erasing the lead runner on a fielder’s choice, but Mike Hanscom followed by lacing a single past third base that drove in two base runners.
The Millionaires struggled all day to string offense together, as Fetovic only got stronger as the contest wore on. The right-hander allowed just two base runners over the final three innings.
The season now come to a close, Downer could only reflect on the special experience his guys all enjoyed by making this playoff run. With most of the team set to return next year, the hope is that they can build off of this success for future seasons. Most importantly, Downer hopes his guys remember the chemistry they enjoyed and how much that fueled their success.
“They are a family, just the most close-knit team that I have ever coached, no doubt about it,” Downer said. “They’ve got to keep their heads. They got to the show, but unfortunately they didn’t win the show.”