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Athol knocks off Greenfield, qualifies for WM

Some things just never change.

In what is quickly becoming a reoccurring theme to the spring, the Athol High School baseball team finished off its second consecutive late-season push to the postseason on Friday night with a 5-4 Hampshire League baseball victory over Greenfield High School at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield.

The Red Raiders (10-10 overall, 8-8 HL) won three straight games to narrowly get into the WMass Division II tournament. Athol needed to win all three games to qualify, and knocked down HL-leading Greenfield (15-4, 12-3) in the regular season finale in order to complete the run. This comes after the team needed to win its final four games from last season to qualify for the postseason — a run that also included a win over the Green Wave.

“It’s pretty incredible,” Athol coach Josh Talbot said of the improbable close to the season for a second straight year. “It says a lot about the character of the players on this team. It’s nothing special that I’m doing, it’s all about the kids.”

Could this become a yearly trend with this team? Talbot joked about the runs, but said he’d sleep better if his teams didn’t always wait for the final weeks.

“It’s more fun this way,” he joked. “I certainly didn’t think we’d have to wait so long to clinch at the beginning of the season, and I definitely would have liked to clinch a little earlier.”

Last season the Red Raiders used the momentum from the run to knock off Greenfield in the first round of the Division II tournament and then played top-seeded Monument Mountain Regional High School to a close game in a 4-0 loss in the quarterfinals. Talbot admitted that the postseason is all about who has the momentum, pointing out the 2008 Frontier Regional School team that finished 12-8 in the regular season and used a late season run to make it all the way to the Division III State championship game.

“You look at that Frontier team from a few years back,” he began, “they made it all the way to the state finals after getting hot at the right time. The postseason is all about who is hot.”

While the win puts the Red Raiders into the postseason, the Greenfield loss, coupled with a win by Frontier on Friday, puts Greenfield and Frontier in a first-place tie in the HL with one game remaining. It just so happens those two teams meet in the regular season finale for both this afternoon at 4 at Vet’s Field in what will be a one-game playoff to decide the HL champion.

Garrett Hall held the Green Wave hitless through the first four innings and Athol gave the starter a lead to work with, with three runs in the top of the fifth. Johnny Ortiz singled to lead off the inning, and one out later Tyler Guerin doubled to put runners on second and third. Jerry Parker followed plated both with a double and later scored the third run of the frame on Alex Page’s RBI single.

Greenfield not only broke up Hall’s no-hit bid in the bottom of the fifth, but the Wave cut into the Athol lead immediately as Mike Duclos led off the bottom of the fifth with a double and later scored on Kevin Luippold’s sacrifice fly. A pair of Athol errors in the frame led to a second run scoring, to cut the Red Raiders’ lead down to 3-2.

Athol got both runs back in the sixth and again it was Parker who came up big. Parker came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the inning and lined a single to center for his third and fourth RBIs of the day.

“He’s had a tough year with the bat but Jerry has got a competitiveness in him,” Talbot said. “He showed that today with a couple of huge hits.”

The Green Wave did not make it easy as the rain began to fall in the bottom of the sixth inning. Jake Elwell led off with a double and Garrett Hudson followed with a walk to put two aboard with nobody out. Zach Bartak plated Elwell with an RBI single to right and chased Hall from the game. Brad Bousquet came on and settled things down, getting Duclos to ground a fielders choice to shortstop that saw Hudson score, but Bartak out at second. Bousquet then struck out Drew Barisano and Mike Lively for the final two outs of the frame. Greenfield threatened to tie the score in the seventh, getting a runner on second with one out, but Greenfield had a runner cut down at third base after a two-out single by Jake Elwell for the final out of the game.

Barisano pitched five-plus innings for Greenfield, striking out two and walking one, while Duclos came on and struck out four and walked one in two innings of relief.

All teams will find out their postseason fates on Tuesday night at 6 at Northampton High School during the WMass Seeding meeting.

Frontier 11, Easthampton 1 — Ben Ruddock struck out six and gave up just one run on four hits and two walks to lead Frontier to an 11-1 HL baseball victory over Easthampton High School Friday afternoon at Valiton Field in South Deerfield.

Frontier scored five times off Easthampton starter Erik Fickett in the bottom of the first inning and then added three more in both the fourth and sixth innings off reliever Hunter Leveille.

Jared Allis finished with two hits and two RBIs for the Red Hawks (14-5, 12-3), while Sean Doyle collected three hits, including a double. Sam Tillona and Matt Byrne each finished with two hits and one RBI, Billy Barrington added two hits, and Ryan Hoar singled and drove in a run.

Austin Crow finished with a single and a double for Easthampton (10-8, 8-8), and Nick Grise singled and drove in the lone run.

Turners 6, Hopkins 2 — Turners Falls High School entered Friday’s game against Hopkins Academy on a four-game losing streak.

To make things even worse, the Indians were also playing without eight seniors on the roster that were missing due to a class trip, including five starters.

The youthful insertion into the lineup wound up serving as a spark and the Indians ended the streak with a 6-2 HL victory in Hadley.

The young players were not just place holders in the lineup, but many came up with timely hits to help an offense that had scored just two runs in back-to-back losses. The Indians took the lead in the fourth inning when they loaded the bases on some wildness from Hopkins starting pitcher Andrew Omer, who walked a pair of batters and hit a third with a pitch. Omer dug himself in an even deeper hole when he committed an error on the next play to allow the first run to score. Nick York then hit a sacrifice fly to put Turners Falls up 2-0.

Hopkins got one back in the bottom of the frame on a Sean Kelley RBI groundout, but Dan McCormack got the run back in the top of the fifth with an RBI single to make it 3-1. Hopkins again came back in the bottom of the inning with one run on a Jake Kosakowski RBI single, but the Indians broke the game open in the top of the sixth, and it came on the bats of the rookies. Trent Bourbeau smacked a two-run triple in the frame, and Brendan LeDoyt hit an RBI single to help the Indians plate three runs and take a commanding lead.

“The young guys did the things they are supposed to do and they sparked a little life into us, which is nice,” Turners coach Jay Liimatainen said.

Indian pitcher Tyler Charboneau would not allow a run over the final two innings and the sophomore wound up with five strikeouts and one walk in the four-hit, complete-game victory.

Omer struck out eight and walked four in five innings to suffer the loss.

The Indians (13-6, 10-5) close out the season on Sunday afternoon at 4 in Buckland where they will finish a suspended game against Mohawk Trail Regional High School in which they were leading 8-0 in the top of the fourth inning. Hopkins finished the season 9-10 overall.

Mahar 11, Pioneer 3 — Hunter Richardson finished with three hits and two RBIs to lead Mahar Regional School to an 11-3 victory over Pioneer Valley Regional School in the regular-season finale for both teams.

The Senators (11-9) put a three-game skid to rest and now move on to play in the WMass Division III tournament. Buddy Boatwright also picked up three hits for the Senators, Jake Paul finished with two hits and two RBIs, and Logan Barrett added two hits. Matt Richard chipped in a single and two RBIs. Zach Adams earned the win, striking out one and walking one in five innings. Cody Iozzo struck out three and walked three in the final two innings of work.

Ryan Wagner finished with two hits and one RBI for Pioneer, which ends the season 2-16 and missed the postseason after qualifying for the previous four seasons. Brian Llewelyn added two hits, while Alex Keir and Kyle Hubbard each drove in a run. Wagner lasted just three innings in the loss, giving up nine runs with one strikeout and one walk. Keir pitched two innings of relief, allowing two runs, and Hubbard pitched one scoreless inning of relief with one strikeout.

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