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Valiant Hawks fall in 10

AMHERST— Someone had to win, and someone had to lose. Such is life, and in the finals of the Western Massachusetts Division II softball tournament, No. 1 seed Hampshire Regional High School and No. 3 Frontier Regional School went toe-to-toe all day Saturday, and had to play three extra frames to settle it.

Hampshire’s Katie O’Connor stepped to the plate with one out and runners at first and second in the bottom of the 10th and delivered the game-winning hit, a line drive down the left-field line that scored Marissa McCarthy, and the Red Raiders walked off with a 2-1 victory and the Western Mass. Division II crown at UMass’ Sortino Field.

Hampshire (19-3) hopped on the back of starting pitcher Alexis Ferris, who, on a day when offense was at a premium, came up large. Ferris struck out 16 over 10 innings and walked just one. She did hit two batters and went to a lot of deep counts, but seemed to get stronger as the game endured. Six of her 16 K’s came in extras, two each in the eighth, ninth, and 10th.

“She’s a great pitcher. She looked great all game,” said Frontier head coach Carrie Fydenkevez. “This game was pretty amazing. I’m not sure anyone expected us to go 10 innings with Hampshire. My kids played the best game they played all season. They played great defense, but it’s tournament ball and usually whoever gets more hits wins the game. They got a few more hits than we did today.”

The Red Raiders did outhit the Hawks 11-4, but were never in position to have a big inning to break the game open, largely due to the pitching of Frontier’s McKayla Poissant, who went stride for stride with Ferris into the 10th. Poissant went the distance and, with the help of timely defense, never faced more than five batters in an inning.

“McKayla ... I can’t say enough great words about that kid,” said Fydenkevez. “She pitched an amazing game. She didn’t get riled when they had runners on, she didn’t get riled when we made a mistake behind her. She just hung tough, and the kids behind her made the plays when we needed to make the plays.”

Hampshire manufactured the first run of the game in the bottom of the third, when Savannah Waters reached on a single to left. After Chelsea Mousette flied to center, Waters stole second with two down, setting the stage for Anna Dziok, who rapped an RBI single to right.

Frontier (18-3) answered in the top of the fourth, cobbling together a run of its own. A one-out walk to Ally Hamelin got things started. After a fielder’s choice by Courtney Newsome moved Hamelin to second, Cassidy Ciesluk delivered the tying run with a single to left.

That was the end of the scoring until the game’s final play, but there was no lack of excitement leading up to the finale. In the bottom of the seventh, the Red Raiders put runners on second and third with no outs, and appeared poised to win it in regulation. Frontier would have none of it, and turned in the defensive gem of the day on the following play. Mousette hit a sharp ground ball that Red Hawks third baseman Gwen Thayer picked cleanly and looked back runner Taylor Boutwell before firing to first to retire Mousette. Boutwell raced home on Thayer’s throw, and it took a perfect throw from first baseman Ciesluk to catcher Newsome to nail Boutwell at the plate for the double play. A fly out later, the teams played on.

“I told my kids at the beginning of the game to leave everything out there on the field today, and they did, they absolutely did,” said Fydenkevez.

The end of the season sees the Red Hawks bidding farewell to seniors Caitlyn Sullivan, Hayley Dacyczyn. Katie Fournier, Thayer, and Poissant.

Hampshire moves on to play Central Mass. champion and two-time defending state champion Grafton High School in the Division II state semifinals Tuesday at 5 at Worcester State University.

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