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Frontier outlasts Rams, 7-5

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Frontier Regional School survived a scare from No. 11 seed Granby High School (15-7), holding on Monday for a 7-5 quarterfinal win in Western Massachusetts Division III Baseball Tournament action at Valiton Field.

The No. 3 seed Red Hawks (16-6) appeared to be on the way to making it a laugher when they sent 11 men to the plate and scored six second-inning runs. The inning began with Matt Byrne and Sam Tillona reaching on base hits, then being moved along to second and third on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Jared Allis. Eddie Tsai then worked a walk to load the bases and set the stage for Brandon Bryant, the DH and No. 9 hitting freshman, who was stepping in for his first varsity at-bat. Bryant promptly scorched a 1-1 pitch to the left-center field gap, scoring Byrne and Tillona with the game’s first runs. Leadoff hitter Niko Ames then singled to right center, scoring both Tsai and Bryant, taking second on the throw to the plate. Granby Coach Jim Woods showed a quick hook, removing starting pitcher Andy Gifford and bringing in reliever Zack Funk, who issued back-to-back full-count walks to Sean Doyle and Rylan Baronas. Ryan Hoar proceeded to knock them both in with a single to left, which concluded the inning’s scoring for the Hawks.

The euphoria was short-lived as Granby answered with a rally of its own in the top of the third. No. 8 hitter Brandon Cloutier led off the frame with a line-drive double down the left-field line, which was immediately followed by well-placed bloop double by Andy Strycharz, giving the Rams their first run of the day. After Red Hawks starting pitcher Peter Watroba recorded his third strikeout of the game, getting leadoff hitter Jake Whitacre on a nasty curve ball. Strycharz then moved to third on a ground-out by Noah Parent and scored on a passed ball. Watroba avoided further trouble by striking out Brett Sullivan, looking, on a curve that caught the outside corner to end the inning.

Zack Funk continued on the mound for the Rams and settled in nicely, retiring the side in order in the third and fourth innings. He allowed only one unearned run in the fifth, giving his offense a chance to mount a comeback in the top of the sixth with the top of the order coming up. Jake Whitacre led off with a ringing single to left, followed by Noah Parent’s tailor-made double-play ball to shortstop Ryan Hoar, who threw the ball into right-center field for an error, putting runners at first and third with nobody out. Brett Sullivan then knocked in the Rams’ third run of the game with a sacrifice fly to deep left-center field. Travis Padgett followed with a single, putting runners on first and second, followed by a double-steal that moved the runners to second and third. Hoar’s rough inning continued as a run scored when his throw to first was wide, pulling the first baseman off the bag. A visibly tiring Watroba walked Funk, allowing an unearned run on a passed ball in the process, before retiring Brandon Cloutier on a fly ball to center, ending the inning and his day on the mound.

Funk continued to keep the Hawk’s bats quiet in the bottom of the sixth, and the Rams came to bat in the seventh down by only two. Big lefty Sam Tillona relieved Watroba, and struggled to find his command, walking leadoff hitter Strycharz on four pitches. He then settled down, striking out Whitacre before giving up a hard single to right by Parent, putting the tying runs on base for the Rams with only one out. The comeback bid ended there, however, as Tillona found his groove, striking out both Sullivan and Padgett to end the game.

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