Wahconah Advances to Western Mass Final
AMHERST, Mass. -- The Wahconah softball team challenges opponents with a lineup that does not have many holes.
And Wahconah this week has a whole lot of runs to show for it.
Seven different players had at least one hit, and eight of nine starters scored at least one run on Thursday as No. 3 Wahconah (16-6) defeated second-seeded Hoosac Valley (16-3), 14-2 in the semi-finals of the Western Massachusetts Division 2 tournament.
"I thought we had a lot of quality at-bats, early in the game especially," Wahconah coach Dustin Belcher said. "We did a good job of small ball, putting the ball in play.
"Overall, I think scoring early settled us in a little bit on the big stage. We needed to play defense early and get a couple of runs across the board."
It was Hoosac Valley's defense that proved to be the Hurricanes' Achilles heel as Wahconah cashed in on four Hoosac errors in the first three innings to build a 7-0 lead.
Wahconah pitche Abby Wells had a couple of early RBIs to help her own cause: a second-inning groundout to plate Hailey Lenski and a third-inning single to right to again score Lenski.
Catcher Jess Warren then made a big defensive play in the bottom of the third, popping out from behind the plate to catch a pop-up in foul territory for the third out of the inning and leaving the bases loaded.
"I thought that was a huge play," Belcher said. "At that moment, one swing of the bat, and it's a new ballgame. I thought getting out of that unscathed and having Jess make that play was huge.
"And you could see it lift us back up. We were starting to get a little deflated there, and I think it lifted us back up."
Wahconah rode that momentum to a pair of runs in the top of the fourth.
First, Warren led off with a towering home run over the center field fence to get things started. Then Jess Duma tripled and came home on a Kaitlyn Olds single to make it 9-0.
Hoosac Valley rallied with a run in the bottom of the inning, cashing in on a Wahconah error to get an unearned run when Logan Stansfield's line-drive double to center brought in Syrah Bradley.
A Katie Braman double led to Hoosac Valley's second run in the bottom of the seventh. After she led off with the two-bagger, a wild pitch got her to second, and Madi Puppolo drove her home.
Wells finished with five strikeouts and allowed just the one earned run in the seventh. She also had a pair of hits, as did Morgan Marauszwski, Emma Parkington, Olds and Julia O'Connor.
For Hoosac Valley, Rylynn Witek had two hits and the Hurricanes gained a ton of experience.
"They're a young team," Hoosac coach Mike Ameen said. "I've got a freshman pitcher, a freshman catcher, a sophomore left fielder, an eighth-grader at third, a sophomore in right field. To be able to come here and experience it ...
"I've been coming here for years, and it's like going to Fenway Park for kids from our area who don't see these types of fields. You walk into Fenway and you see the green and the Monster and the colors. And that's what happens when they walk in here. They see the big buildings and the green grass and the red and the dugouts.
"A little bit intimidating maybe, but it's good to get it out of the way."
While the young Hurricanes can start setting their sights on getting back to Sortino Field in 2019, Wahconah will be back on Saturday afternoon when it takes on Greenfield, a 5-1 winner over Hampshire on Thursday, for the Western Mass Championship.
VIDEO: @wrhsgoblue Wahconah Softball senior catcher Jess Warren fields a foul pop to leave the bases loaded in the third inning of Thursday's Western Mass semi-final win.