Defense Keys Wahconah's Semi-Final Win

By Stephen Sports
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DALTON, Mass. – The Wahconah softball team ended Thursday’s Western Massachusetts Class B semi-final with its second double play of the night.
But it was not the best defensive play of the game … or even the inning.
That honor goes to the diving catch that second baseman Dani Barry made to start the seventh inning of the 9-1 win over Easthampton.
Wahconah committed just one error – on the first batter of the game – en route to a date in Tuesday’s regional final against Hampshire at Westfield State.
Avery Vale-Cruz struck out 10, and Taylar Hickey went 2-for-3 with three RBIs to lead the offense.
But Thursday was about Wahconah’s defense as much as anything else.
“Outstanding,” coach Dustin Belcher said. “What a great way to end the game. Dani Barry makes a diving catch, we turn two to end the game.
“I’m proud of the way we competed because, to be honest with you, there were games this year where they didn’t have to make a lot of plays. Avery is getting 14, 15 strikeouts. But they work so hard, very day, defensively, and I’m glad that when they had an opportunity they were ready to convert.”
Early on Thursday, it looked like it was going to be another night when Vale-Cruz accounted for most of the outs from the circle. She struck out the side after the initial error in the first and sat down the Eagles in order by way of strikeouts in the second.
But Easthampton started putting the ball in play after that and collected a hit in three straight innings.
A one-out single in the fifth was erased on the next batter when catcher Olivia Wehner fired down to Emma Belcher at second for a strike ‘em out/throw ‘em out double play to end the inning.
Easthapton scored its lone run in the top of the sixth on a sacrifice bunt following Abigail McClaflin’s triple.
By that time, though, Wahconah already had a 9-0 lead.
It got all the runs Vale-Cruz would need in a two-run third inning.
A pair of errors to start the frame were followed by Casey Wilson’s sacrifice fly and Hickey’s RBI single up the middle.
Wahconah then tacked on three runs in the fourth and five in the fifth as its offense started to figure out Easthampton starter Rosie Follet. Belcher said that his players have shown an ability to adjust to pitchers all spring.
“That’s been kind of our key all year,” he said. “I’m proud of the way we’ve been able to stay with our game plan and not panic. … Second time through the order, everybody’s seen the ball, and we’re a little more confident at the plate.”
Tuesday will mark the first meeting this spring between Wahconah (19-1) and top-seeded Hampshire (18-2). In their last post-season meeting, Hampshire ended Wahconah’s season in the old Western Mass sectional semi-finals in 2019.
“We’re going to celebrate this one tonight, and then we’ll look at Hampshire,” Belcher said. “They’re a very good team. You go back in history, and Wahconah and Hampshire have played a lot of big games against one another. Coach [Brian] McGan does a great job with them.
“We’ll be ready, though.”
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