Raiders keep rolling, 2-1
Athol High School baseball coach Josh Talbot may have been joking when, after his team dropped a 2-1 decision to Easthampton High School on Friday afternoon that left his club at 7-10 needing to win three straight games to qualify for the tournament, he said, “We’ve got them right where we want them.”
But after two straight wins, he may have been onto something.
The Red Raiders are doing their best to experience deja vu this season with another late-season tournament run, and on Wednesday kept their postseason hopes alive with a 3-0 victory over Mahar Regional School in Hampshire League action in Orange.
The win sets up a one-game season for the Red Raiders (9-10 overall, 7-8 HL), who must beat Greenfield High School Friday night at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield to qualify for the postseason.
The run to the tournament comes exactly one season after Athol was staring at a 6-10 record with four games to play and needed to win out to make the postseason. The Red Raiders went on a four-game winning streak to end the season, then won their first-round tourney game. Now, the team finds itself one win away from accomplishing the feat again.
“The guys have been really excited,” Talbot said. “Doing it last year has helped them be confident that they could do it again. They’ve been watching the Boston Red Sox documentary (entitled) ‘Four Days in October’ and they have that ‘Why not us’ mentality?”
Standing in Athol’s way is a HL-leading Green Wave team that likely has a revenge mentality. One of the four-straight wins that Athol registered en route to qualifying for the tournament came in a 12-4 dismantling of the Green Wave. Athol then beat Greenfield for the third time in three tries when the Raiders eliminated the Green Wave from the WMass Division II Tournament in the first round with a 1-0, 12-inning victory.
“I’m sure they would love to (knock us out of the tournament),” Talbot said. “They’ve been the best team in Franklin County for 41 years and it certainly won’t be easy on Friday night.”
Before looking ahead to Greenfield, the Red Raiders had to get past a Mahar (10-9, 6-9) team that had already qualified for the postseason. Red Raiders starting and winning pitcher Dakota Melanson handed the Senators their third loss in a row with a one-hit shutout. The only Mahar hit was when the third batter of the game for the Senators, Logan Barrett, lined a single to left center with one out in the first inning. Mahar loaded the bases with one out in the inning with the help of two Athol errors, but Melanson induced a 6-4-3 double play from Drew Patria to get out of the jam. From there, Mahar got just four more baserunners (three walks and one more error) but Melanson never allowed a runner past second base the rest of the way to lead Athol to the win. The senior struck out six.
“He was as efficient as he has ever been,” Talbot said. “He threw 110 pitches in 4 2-3 innings the other day but needed just 82 pitches in the complete game today.”
Athol has now given up just five runs in its past four games and one run in the past two after Brad Bousquet fired a five-hitter Tuesday in Athol’s 2-1 win over Frontier Regional School.
“I talked about our pitching before the season and said that I thought it was really strong,” Talbot explained. “And right now, when we need it the most, it’s coming through for us.”
Athol got one run in the top of the first inning when Bousquet led off the game with a single and scored on a Melanson sacrifice fly. The Red Raiders added another run in the third inning when Melanson was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on Garrett Hall’s single, and then closed out the scoring with one more run in the seventh as Bousquet singled and later scored on an error.
Patria went the distance in the losing effort, striking out nine and walking one.
Frontier 5, Mahar 0 (51∕2) — Krystel Enko fired a no-hitter and was one walk from a perfect game for Frontier Regional School as it blanked Mahar, 5-0, in a Franklin County League softball game Wednesday at Zabek Field in South Deerfield.
The game was called after 51∕2 innings due to tornado warnings.
Enko struck out 10 in her gem, and supported herself on offense with a pair of hits.
Three swings of the bat accounted for the Red Hawks’ five runs. Ally Hamelin smacked a two-run single in the first inning, Sarah Toomey with two outs in the third to plate a pair of runs, and Courtney Newsome drove in the final run in the fifth.
Hamlein, who also doubled, and Cassidy Stankowski also finished with two hits for Frontier (14-5 overall, 12-4 FCL).
Kate Donelan fanned three and walked two in five innings of work for the Senators, who completed their season 7-13 overall and 3-13 in the FCL.
Frontier wraps up the regular season today at 4:15 p.m. at independent foe and potential Division II Tournament opponent Wahconah Regional High School.