Grafton Tops Wahconah in State Semis

By Stephen Sports
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MONTAGUE, Mass. — The Wahconah High School softball team's senior class left an indelible mark on the school, on Berkshire County and on the walls of the high school gymnasium.

But its impact went deeper for coach Dustin Belcher, who talked about the class of 2013 after its season ended with a 4-2 loss to Grafton in Friday's Division 2 State Semi-Final.

"In my time here at Wahconah, they're a special group," Belcher said. "They have a great work effort. But it's really their camaraderie and team chemistry and their leadership that will be so much missed going forward.

"It's such a great group of seniors, and maybe that's the hardest part of today: saying goodbye to those seniors."

Wahconah won three Western Massachusetts titles and a state championship and went at least as far as the Western Mass semi-finals each of the last four seasons.

That kind of run puts a lot of banners on the walls and gives a lot of tournament experience for Class of '13, and Wahconah's players showed their heart after falling behind early against the Central Mass champions.

The first three batters reached base for Grafton (23-2), and an error helped the designated home team push across an unearned run before Wahconah senior Rebeccah Grunow closed the door.

"I thought that was a good sign that we got out of that giving up only two runs," Belcher said.

And after Grafton scratched out another run in the bottom of the third, Wahconah scored two runs on three hits against junior ace Kendal Roy, who last year pitched Grafton to a state title.

Grunow got things started with a single up the middle, but she was erased when Gabrielle Lavinio reached on a fielder's choice. Elizabeth King gave Wahconah its first runner in scoring position of the day with an infield single that got Lavinio to third, and then King stole second.

After a strikeout, freshman Chloe Warren delivered a two-out, two-run single up the middle to get Wahconah within a run, 3-2.

But Wahconah managed just two more baserunners the rest of the way: a two-out bunt single by Erin Grogan in the fifth and a two-out single to left by Bethany McBlain in the seventh.

Roy scattered eight hits and struck out eight to get her team back to the state championship game, where it will face Burlington (22-3) on Saturday at Worcester State University.

"I thought she did a good job hitting her spots, and I thought she had us guessing a little bit on the outside stuff, waving at some pitches out there," Belcher said. "At the end of the day, at times we just struggled to make good contact. Our best way to get on base was the bunts that we beat out, which we've been able to do this year."

Most days, Wahconah (21-3) did more than that. In the Western Mass tournament, it scored 27 runs in three games, including 10 in the sectional final win over Belchertown.

Grafton coach John Gemme said he knew Roy would have to be on to keep Wahconah off the scoreboard.

"They swing the bat," Gemme said.

"She's one who hits her spots pretty well. There were a couple of batters that we knew if we threw them a certain pitch, they're probably going to hit it pretty good, so we've got to keep it away from that area.

"I have confidence Kendal will do that. She doesn't usually make that mistake. Every now and then, but not that often."

Offensively, Grafton was led by Tara Faford, who went 3-for-3 with a double and two runs batted in.

Wahconah's Grunow allowed 12 hits, but she stranded seven runners over six innings and allowed just two earned runs.

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