The Wahconah softball team celebrates its Western Mass Championship on Wednesday.
AMHERST, Mass. — Starting off strong is something that teams strive for in every game and especially in games like the Western Massachusetts championship.
That is exactly what the No. 2 seeded Wahconah softball team did on Wednesday afternoon at UMass in the Division 2 Western Mass title game as they defeated top seeded Belchertown, 10-0.
The Warriors opened up the game with a five run inning that started with lead-off hitter Erin Grogan reaching base and was followed up by three straight hits from their two, three, and four hitters.
"From the time we got on the bus I had a good feeling," said head coach Dustin Belcher. "We came ready. We came focused and certainly coming out and getting five runs in the top of the first, I think relaxed us a little bit too. But I thought we made the plays when we had to on defense. We got the timely hit when we needed it. I'm really really happy with the way the girls responded today."
Grogan started off the game by laying down a bunt and advanced all the way over to third on an error. Starting pitcher Rebecca Grunow came up to the plate next and after falling down 0-2 in the count with two missed bunt attempts, helped herself out by roping a triple into left field to score Grogan. Following up Grunow's RBI hit was shortstop Gabby Lavinio, who wasted no time knocking a single on the first pitch over the second baseman's head to plate another run. Elizabeth "Bizzy" King kept the hits going with a single of her own to right field to move Lavinio over to third. With three runs on the board, freshman Chloe Warren cleared the bases to push the lead to five, ripping a double to left field.
Wahconah's top four hitters in the lineup, all of whom were seniors, reached base and and came into score. Many of the seniors were part of Wahconah's Western Mass championship teams in 2010 and 2011 but talked about how this one was extra special.
"Obviously it's a great feeling having been apart of three, but this being my senior year and us having eight seniors on the team is just great," said Lavinio. Grunow added, "It's my senior year and I really wanted to leave a big impact, it feels great to be involved because I was a backup pitcher as a sophomore in 2011."
Grunow made huge impact on the game as she pitched seven innings of shut-out ball scattering six hits while walking just one batter and striking out three. She pitched out of three jams as she had runners on second and third in the third, sixth, and seventh innings. She told me she "felt very confident going in" once her team put five runs on the board before she even got out to the circle.
Her confidence was sure to go through the roof after the top of the fifth inning when the Warriors tacked on five more runs to push their lead to 10.
Lead-off hitter Grogan was at it again using her blazing speed to leg out a bunt single. Grunow moved her over to second with a bunt of her own, opening up another RBI chance for Lavinio. She didn't dissapoint, blasting a double to left center field to push Grogan across. King added another hit with a single over the shortstop's head and Warren drew a walk to load the bases for senior Shannon Lussier. With two outs and two strikes, Lussier smacked a single up the middle to score two more runs and then stole second to give fellow senior Rachael Brennan an oppurtunity to extend their lead to double digits. She ripped her second pitch straight up the middle of the diamond scoring the two runners and giving her a game-high three RBI on the day.
"This is a special group of seniors. There's eight of them on the roster. Lot of them were sophomores, role players on the state championship team in 2011," said Belcher. "But they wanted to leave their own legacy and their own mark on the program. They certainly did that today and I'm proud of them."
Wahconah moves on to play in the state semi-final against Central Massachusetts Division 2 champion Grafton. The game is scheduled for Thursday, June 13, at 5 p.m. at UMass weather permitting.