Swipe of home sparks Wave
NORTH ADAMS — Garrett Hudson knows a little something about pitching.
So when the Greenfield High School ace reached third base with nobody out in the fourth inning of the Western Massachusetts Division III Baseball Tournament semifinals Wednesday, he began sizing up the delivery of Drury High School pitcher Tyler Briggs. And when Hudson found himself still stuck at third with two outs, he took his shot, and his straight steal of home ignited the sixth-seeded Green Wave offense during its 7-2 victory over the second-seeded Blue Devils at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
The win gives Greenfield (17-6) a chance to achieve its “Quest to defend the West,” something that the team, specifically shortstop Parker Hickey, said in the dugout after the win. The reigning WMass Division II champions are now 12-1 overall in their past 13 games after a 5-5 start to the season.
“That has been our goal all along,” Hudson said. “Once we started winning those games and we realized we were in the playoffs, all we started thinking about was repeating.”
Greenfield will face the winner of today’s semifinal game between Athol High School and Monument Mountain Regional High School in Saturday’s WMass title game at Earl Lorden Field at UMass. No official game time has been announced. Drury ended the season 15-7.
Last season, Hudson pitched in the WMass championship game and helped Greenfield secure the crown. This season, he was pitching to put Greenfield in the title game, and he took his 7-0 record into the elimination game. Hudson’s first postseason appearance this season came in the first round against Hoosac Valley Regional High School, and it resulted in a no-hitter for the senior. His semifinal outing did not duplicate the quality but was good enough, nonetheless, as he struck out 11 and allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk.
And while his performance on the mound was nothing to shake a stick at, it was his baserunning that will be most talked about. Greenfield trailed 1-0 in the fourth inning when Hudson led off. It was technically the third time he came to bat, as a caught stealing with him at the plate ended the third inning. Hudson fell behind 0-2 against Briggs but fought his way back and worked a walk. Drew Barisano followed with a ground ball to short that was booted, allowing Hudson to reach third base. It appeared Greenfield was prime to at least tie the game, but back-to-back ground balls to the pitcher by Connor Eckstrom and Jourdan York-Welcome stranded Hudson 90 feet from the tying run. Barisano went to second when Eckstrom grounded out, and Briggs began pitching from the windup when he faced York-Welcome. Hudson, noticing this, began to size up his lead and watch Briggs’ timing. So when Kevin Luippold came to the plate with two outs, Hudson saw his chance, and before Briggs even began his windup, Hudson, who would not be mistaken for Ricky Henderson on the basepaths, broke for home. Briggs did not notice him racing toward home plate until he was partially into the windup, but by then it was too late. Hudson was steps from the home when Briggs broke from the windup and was charged with a balk. The balk did not matter because Hudson had the base stolen. It appeared to rattle Briggs, who promptly gave up an RBI single to Luippold, who scored Barisano on the play, and after a walk to Tyler Jacques and a single to Owen Schilling, Briggs uncorked a wild pitch to allow Luippold to score, giving Greenfield a 3-1 lead it would not relinquish.
“That jump-started us right there,” Greenfield coach Tom Suchanek said. “I didn’t give him any steal sign, he did that on his own and he said, ‘Hey, the guy wasn’t paying any attention to me.’ And I’ll tell you what, if he didn’t call a balk, he had it stolen anyways.”
Hudson said he was able to pull off the steal because he had the chance to watch Briggs pitch from the windup.
“For two straight batters I was on third base watching the kid, and I got probably four or five pitches with him in the windup, where I could test him,” he explained.
Greenfield kept the offensive pressure up from there, scoring twice in the fifth and adding two more in the sixth to take a 7-1 lead. Drew Barisano had RBI singles in each of the those two innings, while York-Welcome was able to drive in a run on a safety squeeze in the fifth to score Hudson. Barisano, the No. 4 Wave hitter, snapped a hitless streak in the postseason with his big day, and was all smiles as he talked about the Green Wave offense, which scored the seven runs despite collecting just five hits.
“All season long we have been scrappy,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of fire and we’re ready to go.”
Drury got to Hudson early with a run in the bottom of the first inning as Logan Rumbolt belted a double to the base of the left-field wall and Jake Tatro followed it with a double to the right-center power alley. The Blue Devils scored again in the sixth inning when they plated an unearned run, but Hudson set the Blue Devils down in order in the seventh to nail down the victory.
Defensively, Drury made four costly errors, as six of the seven Green Wave runs were unearned.
Not everything was great for the Green Wave in the win. Starting catcher and leadoff hitter Jake Elwell left the game with a high-ankle sprain. Elwell walked in his first plate appearance and then singled in his second but was hurt when he was going back to the first base bag on a pickoff attempt. He immediately went down in a heap, and despite limping off the field under his own strength, had to be removed. Drew Toritto replaced Elwell, and although he did have some trouble handling Hudson’s pitches, Suchanek overall was pleased and said he started Toritto five or six times this season just in case Elwell was hurt. No word yet if Elwell will be available for Saturday’s title game, although the senior will try to give it a go. Parker Hickey, who started the Green Wave’s quarterfinal game against Southwick-Tolland High School, is the likely starter in that game.