Frontier comeback derails Wave

  • Frontier winning pitcher Ben Arnold (3) releases a pitch against Greenfield in the top of the fourth inning Monday afternoon at G.T. Valiton Field in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield pitcher Owen Phelps (10) hits against Frontier in the top of the fifth inning on Monday afternoon in South Deerfield, June 11, 2018. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

Recorder Staff
Monday, June 11, 2018

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Throughout the week, the message surrounding the Frontier Regional School baseball team was that it was hard to beat a team three times in a season.

That was what the second-seeded Red Hawks were trying to do Monday afternoon at G.T. Valiton Field, where they hosted 10th-seeded Greenfield High School in the WMass Division III Baseball Tournament quarterfinals. The Hawks defeated the Green Wave twice during the regular season, and heading into the seventh inning, it was not looking great for the hosts with Greenfield clinging to a 2-1 lead.

At that point, Frontier coach Chris Williams reminded his team that it did not need to beat Greenfield in a third game, but only needed to beat the Green Wave in the frame, and his team responded by scoring twice in its final at-bats, including a one-out, walk-off single by Kiernan Freeman to send the Hawks to the semifinals with a 3-2 victory.

“That message going into the seventh inning was, ‘We don’t have to beat them three times, we don’t have to beat them one game, we just have to beat them one inning, right here, right now, and they rose to the occasion,’” Williams said.

Frontier advances to the semifinals, where it’ll play third-seeded Monument Mountain Regional High School Wednesday at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield. Monument knocked off sixth-seeded Southwick Tolland Regional High School, 6-1, in another Monday quarterfinal.

The Red Hawks (20-1) struggled to do much of anything against Greenfield starting pitcher Owen Phelps throughout much of the early stages of the game. Then they began to get to the pitcher in the late innings, scoring once in the fifth before leaving two men on base in the sixth. With Phelps back on the bump to start the seventh, Williams sent pinch-hitter Alec Jordan to the plate. The senior came through by blasting Phelps’ second pitch over the head of Green Wave leftfielder Jake Sak for a leadoff double.

“I figured it could have been my last at-bat so why not go out big,” the senior pinch-hitter explained. “I was a little nervous there, but once that first pitch came in, I was set right in. That’s what we needed to get us going.”

Jordan’s brother Bryce followed by bunting him to third and No. 9 hitter Jacob Bryant followed by lining an RBI single to left to tie the game. That brought up the top of the order, which to that point had been quiet, with the top three hitters 0-for-9 combined. Enter Matt Hildreth, who kept things going by singling back up the middle to move Bryant to second. Bryan Baumann followed by hitting a ground ball to short. On the play, Bryant slowed up in front of the ball to try to distract Greenfield shortstop Jake Suhl and the move paid dividends. The Wave shortstop was unable to field the ball cleanly, and the error loaded the bases with one out for Frontier. Greenfield moved the infield in to set up a potential play at the plate, but Freeman wasted no time smacking a hard ground ball up the first-base line that took a big hop past Greenfield first baseman Hunter Campbell for the game-winning RBI single.

“I went 0-for-3 all the way up to that at-bat, but the momentum switched and the confidence from the bench came out at that point,” Freeman said. “I was just trying to put the ball in play, honestly, anything in the outfield. I just wanted to make them make a play.”

While Frontier celebrated at the end, the Green Wave (11-11) was the one doing the cheering early, when it got to Frontier ace Ben Arnold for a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. Phelps led off the game by working a walk and moving to second on Suhl’s sacrifice bunt. Colin Cloutier followed with a single between third and short to plate his cousin with the game’s first run. Campbell followed by hitting an Arnold pitch off the end of his bat and dropping it down the left-field line for an RBI double.

Arnold settled in after that, allowing just four baserunners the rest of the way, two singles and two walks. The senior finished the game with six strikeouts and three walks, allowing four hits.

“It certainly wasn’t an ideal start to the game,” Williams said. “I never lost faith in Ben. I knew he was going to come back. I was just a little skeptical to when we were going to score our runs, but our guys never quit.”

Things were dicey for the Frontier offense through the first four innings. Phelps took a no-hitter into the fifth and had allowed just two baserunners in the first four frames, a walk and an error. Frontier finally got to Phelps in the fifth inning when Garrett DeForest made the first hit of the game a loud one, belting a leadoff double to deep center. Williams had Kalen Evans bunt DeForest to third, and Bryce Jordan drove him in with a sacrifice fly to center. Williams said that the tide turned for his club when hitters began to recognize that Phelps was starting off at bats with a curveball.

“I think it took us a little long to recognize that Phelps was going to that curveball with his first pitch,” he said. “We were chasing it and giving him some gifts, and we started taking that pitch, which paid off for us.”

In the sixth, Phelps got two quick outs, but an error and a hit-by-pitch put two runners aboard for the Red Hawks, but Phelps came back to strikeout DeForest and survive the jam.

Phelps finished with four strikeouts and one walk in the tough-luck loss.