Wahconah Wins Western Mass Crown
AMHERST, Mass. — Matt Schneider has done a lot for the Wahconah baseball team over the years.
But never quite like this and certainly not on this stage.
On Saturday, Schneider went 3-for-3 with two doubles, five RBIs and two stolen bases to lead his team to a 13-3 win over Frontier in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Championship game.
Either one of Schneider's doubles could have been called the biggest hits of a 10-hit Wahconah attack.
The first set the tone by driving in a pair of runs in the top of the first inning and giving the No. 4 seed a cushion right out of the gate.
The second was a back-breaker, driving in three runs and capping a five-run fourth inning that pushed Wahconah's lead to 9-0.
"That was key," Wahconah coach Rob Cowdrey said. "I think it kind of took the wind out of their sails. At that point it was kind of within reach, and once you start creeping up on a 10-run lead, it's hard for the other team to stay motivated. It was a huge hit for us."
Schneider had a sense that it was the one that put the game away.
"I was looking for a ball that I could drive," Schneider said. "And I got it. I think it was a fastball, and I was just hoping to drive one into the gap. I found the gap, and everybody wheeled around.
"We knew coming out of the (2 hour, 35 minute) rain delay that they were up with nobody out, and we knew we had to shut the door there and score a couple to kill any momentum they might have had from the rain delay."
Wahconah (16-8) went into the delay up 4-0, but third-seeded Frontier had a man on and nobody out when the deluge started in the bottom of the third.
Will Genaway returned from the "intermission" and retired the next three men in order to shut that door. And Wahconah's offense kicked the door down in the fourth.
"I was just trying to stay warm," Genaway said of the rain delay. "I was getting a little cold.
"As a pitcher, you don't want a rain delay. But I was able to stay loose, and we came out firing."
Genaway ended up with a complete game victory. He struck out seven, including the game's final out to touch off the celebration for his teammates.
"He gave up 10 hits, but his curveball was just filthy today," said Schneider, Wahconah's catcher. "He just made big pitches in big spots. That's all you can ask for in a tournament game.
"He might have given up some hits, but he was solid all game long."
Genaway stranded eight men on base. In the second, when he struck out the side, he also left the bases loaded to keep Frontier scoreless.
The junior right-hander also got some help from his defense.
After Wahconah used a five-spot in the fourth to push its lead to 9-0, Frontier showed a little life, scoring two in the bottom of the inning and holding Wahconah without a run for the first time in the top of the fifth.
Seth Gewanter then led off the bottom of the fifth with a single, and Brandon Bryant followed with a shot down the third-base line.
But Gage Frazier made the stab and the long throw to second, where Ty Cowdrey made a silky smooth pivot to get the ball to Ben Schmitt in time for a 5-4-3 double play.
"That was big," Genaway said. "That's confidence-boosting as a pitcher when you know you have that defense behind you. They can make their plays, and it's great."
"It was awesome," Rob Cowdrey said. "Those are the types of things where they stop rallies. You could see the momentum was starting to build. You could hear their fans were getting a little bit louder. And when we got that double play, that kind of burned the inning for them.
"It was a tough turn [for Ty Cowdrey], no doubt about it. And Gage [Frazier] had to make a tough play because he had to come in, and he was turning and throwing behind him. It was just perfectly executed. And it helps when your first baseman is as big as Big Ben [Schmitt] to get that stretch to give us less of a throw."
Wahconah's second baseman also performed at the plate with a 2-for-4 day that included two RBIs and a pair of runs scored. Leadoff man Shane Sinopoli was a big factor, tripling in a run and scoring in the second to make it 4-0 and doubling in the five-run fourth. Cam Taylor contributed a couple of runs and a two-run single in the three-run sixth that pushed Wahconah's lead to 13-2.
Next up for Wahconah is a Tuesday date in Worcester against the winner of Sunday's rescheduled Central Mass title game. The winner of that one goes to Saturday's state title game at Fitton Field.
But on Saturday at the University of Massachusetts' Lorden Field, no one was looking that far ahead. They were too busy enjoying Wahconah's first sectional title since 2007.
"It's awesome," Genaway said. "Just to know how much work we've put in, the whole year, starting in March. It's been a great ride, and I wouldn't want to do it with any other group of guys."