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Frontier beats Northampton for first Suburban title, 7-5

HADLEY — Six early runs led Frontier to the program’s first Suburban Softball League 12-and-under championship with a 7-5 win over Northampton Wednesday evening at Hopkins Academy.

“This is the furthest Frontier has gone in 12U. Last year, we went to the semifinals and this year they made the finals,” coach Bryan Fuller said. “Every kid had a play in this.”

Frontier advanced to the finals after knocking off top-seeded West Springfield 2-1 Tuesday. Hamp used a 10-4 win over second seed Southampton to stay alive before championship nerves got the best of it.

“Our team played well. We had a shaky first inning but have a lot of young players and had a lot of first-inning jitters,” Northampton coach Brian Subocz said.

Subocz said that Hamp and Frontier were the only teams to keep their full rosters through the playoffs. The league requires that every player on the bench bat in the lineup, whether or not they are playing in the field.

“Through the playoffs, we played a lot of teams that had nine or 10, the best nine or 10, so that the younger kids wouldn’t bat and make outs,” Subocz said. “I think that the way Frontier and Northampton do it is a great way to play softball and let everybody play and let the chips fall where they may.”

Frontier saw an uptick in numbers, and with the majority of the roster moving to 14U next season, Fuller said he hopes the trend continues so that they can defend their 12U title, possibly with two teams at the level.

Northampton was carrying a very young team, composed of mostly 10- and 11-year-olds, as a chunk of the 12-year-olds opted to play at the 14U level. After playing all season as underdogs, Subocz said the youth showed in the first inning and hurt through the game’s end.

“That’s going to happen when you play 10- and 11-year-olds (on U12),” he said. “The difference was early in the game.”

Olivia Vecellio led Frontier’s offense, finishing 3-for-3 with a single, double and triple. She opened the game with a leadoff single, took second on an errant pickoff attempt and came around to score on another for a quick 1-0 lead. Kaitlyn Raindath forced the next two batters to pop up before back-to-back singles by Kathryn Hioe and Maddie Fifield extended Frontier’s lead to 2-0.

Hioe started in the circle for Frontier and the defense behind her erased an opening walk when they doubled up a grounder to shortstop by Raindath. A following walk and hit batter looked like trouble but Hioe fielded Erin Gilrein’s bunt and applied the tag to end the inning without any damage done.

Sierra Warren singled to open the second inning but was caught stealing by Gabby Palmisano. Marie Diemand hit a two-out single, stole second and scored on throwing error to make it 3-0. Raindath struck out Skyla Burnisky for the third out.

Hioe struck out two in the second and retired the side in third before Frontier attacked again.

Vecellio doubled, stole third and scored on Grace Wesoloski’s sacrifice grounder back to Raindath. Hioe singled with two outs and Maddie Fifield reached on an error that allowed Hioe to score. Fifield came around on Amanda Fuller’s triple to deep center field to make it 6-0 Frontier.

“Everybody contributed. The early runs, getting on top of them early, is the biggest thing always,” Fuller said. “Hitters hitting triples and doubles and stealing when they were supposed to, and listening, watching the signs, just doing what they were supposed to all game.”

Hioe picked up her sixth strikeout of the game before the wheels came off. Illiana Riever-Lovett reached on an error and Emily Landry singled. Both came around to score on a throwing error as Raindath safely reached first and scored on another error before Katie Lienert walked. After walking Maggie Hession, Wesoloski took over in the circle and allowed a single to Gilrein, which marked the inning run-rule as Northampton had pulled to within 6-5 with no outs.

Macy Ring entered in relief for Hamp and allowed a double to Charlotte Doulette before getting Diemand to ground out. Doulette stole third and scored on Burnisky’s groundout to first.

Wesoloski closed out the game for Frontier, getting out of a jam with runners in scoring position in the fifth and sixth, striking out Ring to end it.

“Kathryn pitched all last night and I stayed with her; she was solid. Gracie and Nattie (Natalie Denkiewicz) are both backups and Gracie really came through at the end,” Fuller said.

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