Rose Homers Twice, Womble Dazzles as Taconic Earns Western Mass Title
AMHERST, Mass. -- Different year. Different division. Same old Taconic baseball team.
Cedric Rose hit two home runs, and Christian Womble threw a complete game Saturday to lead Taconic to a 6-1 win over Frontier in the championship game of the Western Massachusetts Division 3 tournament.
One year after winning a state D1 championship with a senior-laden squad, Taconic is going back to the state semi-finals on Tuesday at Worcester's Tivnan Field against the Central Mass champs.
Rose, who backstopped Womble to a 10-strikeout performance, was one of a couple of senior holdovers from last year's historic run. He said it took a while for this year's squad to jell.
"At the start of the season, we had little adjustments going on to really understand the new characters on the team and the new players," Rose said. "It's a whole different team. We lost 13 [graduates] from last year. So it was a whole different team. So we needed to get that bond that last year's team had.
"Throughout the season, we formed that bond and started trusting one another. When you trust one another, that' when everything starts to click."
It was clicking out of the gate for Taconic (19-4) on Saturday.
Rose hit his first home, a two-run shot to right field, in his team's third at-bat, driving home Austine Rachiele to make it 2-0.
Anton Lazits and Brendan Stannard then followed with a couple of hard-hit singles, and then ... nothing.
Frontier starter Ben Arnold got the next two hitters and kept Taconic off the scoreboard over the next three innings. Meanwhile, Frontier's offense scratched out a run in the fourth to cut Taconic's lead in half.
After a powerful start for the reigning D1 champs, the situation was suddenly very dicey.
"I kept looking at the scoreboard, and we were stuck on two [runs] and four [hits], and they hadn't had a hit," Taconic coach Kevin Stannard said. "But I know what a good team they are and had seen how they came back against Greenfield. They were down 2-0 in the first, and I was reliving it. I was thinking, 'Don't let them get a 3-2 win or something like that.'
"But we held our ground. We had some tough innings where they put some guys on base and Christian struggled a little bit. But we made a couple of good plays."
None was bigger than the one Rose made behind the dish in the top of the third.
Frontier (21-2) had runners on first and third with one out and attempted a suicide squeeze. Womble kept the pitch down in the dirt where the batter couldn't get the bat on the ball, and Rose blocked the pitch and made the tag on the runner attempting to score.
Frontier finally got its run in the top of fourth, but Rose drilled a 1-0 offering over the left field fence in the fifth for an insurance run.
Taconic tacked on three more in the sixth thanks to singles from Colby Sherman, Rachiele and Womble and a double from Leo Arace.
Womble, who struggled with some command issues in the early innings, retired 10 of the last 11 men he faced -- seven by strikeout, including a K on the final batter of the game to set off yet another Taconic celebration on the University of Massachusetts' Lorden Field.
No one was more surprised than Kevin Stannard.
"We were trying to figure out how we were goign to get 10 wins to get to the tournament with our schedule the way it was and losing 13 kids," he said. "Trying to replace that team that left last year and having a bunch, of basically JV kids who didn't know how we coached and we didn't know how they played. Obviously, we've embraced each other.
"It was a tough start at the beginning of the year just to get to know each other. But, I'll tell you, 19-4 and getting back-to-back. It doesn't matter what division. [Frontier] was solid. ... It's baseball. A D4 could beat a D1 school. I think divisions in baseball is a little over-stated."
VIDEO: @phstaconicsport Taconic’s baseball team greets Cedric Rose after his 2nd HR in Saturday’s Western Mass D3 finals win.