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Raiders fall by wayside

TURNERS FALLS — The runaway train that was 12th-seeded Athol High School came up one stop short in the Western Massachusetts Division III Baseball Tournament, falling in the semifinals to No.1 seed Monument Mountain Regional High School, 4-2, at the Bordeau Complex.

Athol (13-10) brought the tying runs to the plate in the top of the seventh inning, but Spartans starting pitcher James Allentuck, who had twelve strikeouts on the night and benefited from a lot of hard-hit balls right at his defense, wiggled his way out of trouble and set down the top of the Athol order, striking out Jerry Parker and Alex Page before inducing Athol starting pitcher Brad Bousquet to fly out to right to end the contest.

“He (Allentuck) pitched pretty well but it seemed that every time we had something going, we hit the ball hard right at someone. He did keep us a bit off balance, but we got our swings on him,” said Athol head coach Josh Talbot.

The scoring began in the bottom of the first, when Spartans’ leadoff hitter Trevor Macfarland began things with a double to deep left-center, and then was moved up to third on a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt by Brandon Perry. The Raiders then decided to intentionally walk Peter Oggiani to set up a possible inning-ending double play, and it almost worked.

Bousquet then got clean-up hitter TJ Shumsky to hit a ground ball to short that on most days would have led to an easy twin-killing, but the infield grass was wet due to the heavy rain that had fallen earlier and, instead, the Red Raiders had to rush. After recording the force-out at second, Page made an ill-advised throw that got by first baseman Kevin Hume. Macfarland scored on the play, and Shumsky moved to second, later scoring on a solid single up the middle by Dominic DeFilice.

Athol got one back in the top of the third when, with two out, Parker recorded a hard single to left. Parker wasted no time swiping second, and on a 2-1 count, Page ripped a base hit to left, cutting the lead in half.

Monument got that run right back in the bottom of the frame, when Oggiani led off with a single to center and, after a single by Shumsky put runners at the corners, came around on a DeFelice fielder’s choice.

The Spartans (17-3) added their fourth run in the bottom of the fifth, when Shumsky knocked in his second run of the game, knocking in Perry, who led off the inning with a two-bagger.

Athol had its best chance for a big inning in the bottom of the sixth, when Bousquet led off with an infield single and reached second on a throwing error. After clean-up hitter Jake LaPointe struck out for the third time in the game, Hume laced a single to right, putting runners on the corners for the Raiders. Catcher Jamie Posk then took a one-strike offering to right center for the base hit, bringing Bousquet in with Athol’s second run, and keeping runners at first and third with just one out. Posk stole second but the Raiders couldn’t capitalize any further, as Allentuck struck out center fielder Andrew Poor and retired Bryce Melanson on a come-backer to end the threat.

Bousquet had his only 1-2-3 inning of the night in the bottom of the sixth to keep his team in it for a last stand in the seventh.

While the Raiders fell short of their goal, their run in the tournament was nothing less than remarkable. The Raiders knocked out both No. 5 seed South Hadley and No. 4 Palmer en route to the semis, and never allowed Monument Mountain to settle in and relax.

“We gave them a scare,” reflected Talbot. “I’d like to think they were scared. The last couple innings their pitcher got a little slower and we always say let them get their palms sweaty and see what happens, but we hit it right at them. What are you gonna do?”

Monument Mountain will face sixth-seeded Greenfield High School in the finals Saturday afternoon at 4:30 at UMass’s Earl Lorden Field.

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