Forfa, Wahconah Finish Strong
DALTON, Mass. -- With two on, two out and a two-strike count, Wahconah's Austin Cancilla did not hit the ball too hard.
But he did just enough to send home two runs in the bottom of the sixth and send his team to a 3-2 win over Hoosac Valley in the Berkshire Classic on Friday.
Cancilla reached out and slapped a roller to the right side of the infield. A bad hop made Cancilla safe at first and allowed Matt Schneider to score from third. A bobble sent the ball to the outfield and sent Ben Schmitt all the way around from second to give Wahconah its first lead of the game.
Ethan Forfa made that advantage hold up, stranding two men on base in the top of the seventh as Wahconah (14-6) ended the regular season by snapping a three-game losing streak, its longest of the spring.
"I think we needed something positive," Wahconah coach Jared Shannon said. "We played three tough games. The [Pittsfield] game was a little bit different; we just got pounded. The Taconic game, we gave them four runs in the sixth inning on one play. The Monument game, it was tied, and then that play happened."
That play was the one where, 11 days previously, Wahconah lost two starters to a vicious collision in the outfield.
"We were even flat coming into today," Shannon said. "So the speech we got was, 'We need to play like this in the tournament.' It's a significant game going into the tournament. You want to go in on the right note.
"And it's a testament to this league. Hoosac is 9-11, but they can hit. They've got some guys who can throw. And they're in the tournament. Anyone out here in Berkshire County can do some damage."
Although Hoosac just missed finishing with a .500 record, the Hurricanes will play in next week's Western Mass tournament by virtue of their second-place finish in the Berkshire County South Division.
That finish also is what set up the Hoosac-Wahconah matchup in the Classic. While the North co-champ hosted the South runner-up, down the road in Pittsfield, the other North champion, Pittsfield, defeated South champ Mount Greylock, 2-0.
Hoosac, which was 4-8 at the beginning of May, won five of its last seven, including two in a row over Lenox and Mount Everett heading into Friday to secure second place.
Hoosac coach Bob Rivard said that the well-played regular season finale is indicative of the kind of team he expects to bring into the post-season.
"Overall, for the past two weeks, they've been playing better baseball," Rivard said. "Compared to where we were at the beginning of the season, the goal is to become a better baseball team. And we have.
"We got a couple of young kids out there playing. We could have broken that game open, but their kid pitched tough when he had to."
Forfa's day got off to a rough start. John Lewis doubled down the line in left on the game's second pitch, and Hoosac scored runs in the first and second inning to take a 2-0 lead. The second run came on a bases loaded walk issued to Noah Matrigali.
"He struggled the first four innings," Shannon said of Forfa. "His timing was just off, so he really struggled with the first pitch strike from the windup.
"The last three innings, he dominated. Those last three, that's the way he pitched against Monument early in the season."
That Monument Mountain game was a no-hitter for the Wahconah sophomore. On Friday, he struck out seven and allowed five hits -- just one after the second inning.
Matrigali was even better, allowing just three hits while striking out four and giving up just a run over six innings. Rivard said that after the right-hander threw 104 pitches over the first six, it was time to pull him.
Austin Frederick started the sixth with a called third strike. But Schneider singled to left and moved up on an error. After another strikeout, Schmitt took a pitch in the back, and both runners moved up on a pitch in the dirt, setting the stage for Cancilla.
"That was huge," Shannon said. "[Cancilla] was thrust into the starting role with [Kyle Kirchner] being out because he was really our fourth outfielder for the first half of the season.
"But he's a good kid. He's a sophomore. He's young. And he handles the bat well, even though he hasn't had a ton of at-bats, maybe 20."
Wahconah and Hoosac Valley will each learn their next opponent on Monday afternoon when the MIAA releases the baseball playoff seedings.