Orioles tip Raiders, win East

  • Athol 5/16/14. Athols's No.24 Watt Doron-LaRue, rifles a kill shot past Belchertown's No.3 Jordon Vigneault in the 1st match.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

    Athol 5/16/14. Athols's No.24 Watt Doron-LaRue, rifles a kill shot past Belchertown's No.3 Jordon Vigneault in the 1st match.
    photo by J. Anthony Roberts

  • Athol 5/16/14. Athols's No.9 Brandon Thomas, fires a kill shot over the net past Belchertown's No.1 Chase Nelson & No.17 Micheal McKenzie in the 2nd match.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

    Athol 5/16/14. Athols's No.9 Brandon Thomas, fires a kill shot over the net past Belchertown's No.1 Chase Nelson & No.17 Micheal McKenzie in the 2nd match.
    photo by J. Anthony Roberts

  • Victor Espinoza rides California Chrome to a victory during the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 3, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

    Victor Espinoza rides California Chrome to a victory during the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 3, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

  • Athol 5/16/14. Athols's No.24 Watt Doron-LaRue, rifles a kill shot past Belchertown's No.3 Jordon Vigneault in the 1st match.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts
  • Athol 5/16/14. Athols's No.9 Brandon Thomas, fires a kill shot over the net past Belchertown's No.1 Chase Nelson & No.17 Micheal McKenzie in the 2nd match.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts
  • Victor Espinoza rides California Chrome to a victory during the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 3, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

It came down to a couple of points and in the end, Belchertown High School was able to take advantage of its opportunities to get kills, while Athol High School not.

With the PVIAC East Division boys’ volleyball regular season title up for grabs, the Orioles narrowly beat the Red Raiders, 24-26, 25-22, 25-23, 22-25, 15-10, Friday afternoon at Mallet Gymnasium in Athol.

The teams came into the match tied at 8-1 in league play and the title-deciding match did not disappoint, as the first four sets were decided by three points or less and everything came down to the fifth set. Athol edged Belchertown in the first set to take an early lead, but back-to-back wins by Belchertown put the Orioles in front. Athol managed to tie the score with a fourth-set victory, setting up the race to 15 points in the fifth-and-deciding set. The Orioles wound up putting things away and clinching the league title with the 15-10 victory.

The difference, according to Athol coach Donna Lajoie, was that the Orioles outhit the Red Raiders. While Wyatt Doiron-LaRue and Tyler Lajoie each finished with double-digit kills (including a team season-high 21 by Lajoie), the rest of the team played more timidly, hitting the ball back softly rather than risk a mistake. The Orioles took those gifts and were able to set their own players for kills, and it resulted in a league title.

“Basically it came down to one thing: they outhit us,” she said. “Wyatt and Tyler swung away all day but the others pulled back quite often, trying to play it safely, and we gave them too many free balls or soft hits. We kept giving them opportunities to put the kill down.”

Tyler Lajoie added 20 assists and three blocks to go with his 21 kills, while Doiron-LaRue added seven blocks and one ace. Lorenzo Carra registered a team-high 30 assists, and Nelson Leadbetter added 53 digs. Carter Amadon had five kills and one block, Beau Guimond had five blocks and three kills, and Brandon Thomas finished with four kills.

Athol finished the regular season 14-5 and will find out its place in the Western Mass. Boys’ Volleyball Tournament on Tuesday morning.

Baseball

Athol 8, Smith Academy 6 — Athol is one step closer to making the postseason.

The Red Raiders led 8-2 at one point and survived a late scare to move to within one win of clinching a tournament berth as they defeated Smith Academy, 8-6, in a Hampshire League East Division baseball game Friday afternoon in Hatfield.

Athol (9-8 overall, 6-2 East) needs one win in its final three games to ensure itself a place in the postseason. The Red Raiders also currently sit atop the HL East, and finishing first or second in the division would also get the team in, although coach Josh Talbot does not want to leave anything to chance. The team gets a shot to qualify on Tuesday when it travels to HL East bottom-dwelling Pioneer Valley Regional School.

“We are treating that like a postseason game,” Talbot said.

Should Athol fall to Pioneer it would have to beat either rival Mahar Regional School or HL West co-leader Frontier Regional School later in the week.

After scoring four runs in the top of the sixth inning, Athol held a 8-2 lead, but Smith Academy did not go away, scoring once in the bottom of the sixth and then getting three runs in the seventh.

The Red Raiders got another strong start out of pitcher Bryce Melanson, who tossed six strong innings, striking out three and walking one. He ran into trouble in the seventh inning, giving up all three runs, but Brad Bousquet came on and the ace of the Athol staff struck out a pair as he recorded the final three outs to pick up the save.

Jerry Parker sparked the offense on the day, finishing with two hits, two RBIs and a pair of runs scored. Bousquet also had two hits and two RBIs. Melanson added two hits, one RBI and two runs scored, while Kevin Hume, Jake LaPointe (one RBI) and Shawn Smart each had one hit.

Kevin Banas suffered the loss, striking out five and walking one in five innings. David Longstreeth finished with three hits and two RBIs in the loss, Keith Natale added two hits and two RBIs, and Joey Afflitto collected two hits and one run batted in.

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