Class B baseball: Will Hogan’s walk-off HR lifts Hampshire past Frontier in quarters (PHOTOS)

Frontier catcher Kaden James tries to tag out Hampshire’s Vynce Carr after a dropped third strike during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton.

Frontier catcher Kaden James tries to tag out Hampshire’s Vynce Carr after a dropped third strike during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Frontier’s Tyler Cusson delivers a pitch during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round against Hampshire on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton.

Frontier’s Tyler Cusson delivers a pitch during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round against Hampshire on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Hampshire’s Liam Pond (2) gets his bat on the ball against Frontier during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton.

Hampshire’s Liam Pond (2) gets his bat on the ball against Frontier during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Frontier coach Chris Williams, left, high-fives catcher Kaden James and pitcher Tyler Cusson after an inning against Hampshire during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton.

Frontier coach Chris Williams, left, high-fives catcher Kaden James and pitcher Tyler Cusson after an inning against Hampshire during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Frontier’s Nico Fasulo (1) is congratulated after scoring a run in the first inning against Hampshire during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton.

Frontier’s Nico Fasulo (1) is congratulated after scoring a run in the first inning against Hampshire during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Frontier’s Nico Fasulo (1) scores a run against Hampshire in the first inning during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton.

Frontier’s Nico Fasulo (1) scores a run against Hampshire in the first inning during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Hampshire pitcher Will Hogan tracks down an overthrown ball and fires it back toward second base against Frontier during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton.

Hampshire pitcher Will Hogan tracks down an overthrown ball and fires it back toward second base against Frontier during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Frontier’s Rosco Palmer (8) takes a cut against Hampshire during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton.

Frontier’s Rosco Palmer (8) takes a cut against Hampshire during the Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal round on Monday at Earl Tonet Field in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 05-20-2024 8:52 PM

WESTHAMPTON — Hampshire senior Will Hogan put several good swings on the ball throughout Monday’s Western Mass. Class B quarterfinal against No. 5 Frontier, but each one he pulled foul.

But in his last at-bat, he stepped to the dish with two outs and the fourth-seeded Raiders trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning. His teammate Phil Morin stood on first base. After turning on a fastball and sending it well left of the third-base line, he knew he had to sit and wait on it.

The very next pitch, Hogan barreled up another Wyatt Edes fastball. This time, he kept it in play.

Hogan sent the ball over the left-field fence and gone for a walk-off, two-run home run to give Hampshire a 6-5 win over Frontier – avenging its two previous losses to the Redhawks this season – to punch its ticket in the Class B semifinals.

They will play either No. 1 Pittsfield or No. 8 East Longmeadow.

“I was looking fastball up the middle. We faced [Edes earlier in the year], and we knew his fastball was right there,” Hogan said. “Phil was on first base, he’s always getting on base, and we roll as a team. One guy gets on, then it’s the next and the next. I was hunting fastball, and I got my pitch and drove it out.”

It looked as if the Raiders wouldn’t need the two-out drama to notch the come-from-behind win. Trailing 5-2 entering the final frame, Hampshire’s Vynce Carr and Drew Thompson cracked back-to-back singles to start the rally. Zach Phakos was up next, and he hit a ground ball to Rosco Palmer. The Redhawks shortstop flipped it to second baseman Grayson Loos, who got the out and fired it over to first.

An errant throw sent the ball out of play, which would have brought Carr home and put Phakos at second with one out – the game-tying run coming up to bat.

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However, Thompson never slid into second base, so the umpires called both he and Phakos out and put Carr back on third. Thus, no runs were scored and Hampshire was down to its final out.

Liam Pond drew a walk and stole second to put runners on second and third, then Morin lined a single over the head of Palmer to plate both Carr and Pond.

Enter Hogan and his heroics.

“We got a good break on that double play ball early in the inning, and the defense played well all game,” Frontier head coach Chris Williams said. “But Hogan hit that short porch. That’s why you should have a big boy field. But it is what it is. Kudos to them, congrats to him for the homer. Wishing them best of luck in the playoffs.”

Most high school teams would’ve been deflated once the double play didn’t go their way. But Hampshire, despite the several mental mistakes it made throughout Monday’s contest, didn’t bat an eye.

“We’re stupid some times, but here’s the flip side of being stupid: things don’t bother us,” Raiders head coach Mark Baldwin joked. “It’s like, ‘Oh, we made a mistake. [Oh well], go get ‘em.’ They are very resilient in their dumb-ness. We bounce back after mental mistakes.”

If it weren’t for Morin’s clutch two-out, two-run base knock, Hogan would’ve never had the chance to deliver his heroics. 

Morin, who Hogan said has been the team’s most consistent hitter of late, was faced with a full count. He had reached base his previous three trips to the dish, so he kept his same approach.

“I was up 3-2 in the count, two outs, last inning – I was just trying to hand the baton to the next guy,” Morin said of his clutch hit. “I already saw the curveball, so I knew fastball was coming. I’m glad I hopped on it, got the hit… That scores two, passes it on to [Hogan] and obviously I was pretty fired up about it.”

Baldwin is the team’s third-base coach. All game long he was dodging foul balls coming off the bats of his players. When Hogan squared one up, he knew it had the distance.

Only one other thought crossed his mind.

“Every other one of those was foul, so I was like, ‘Please stay fair,’” Baldwin said. “Off the bat that’s all I could think of, because I knew he hit it far enough. And good for him, because he pitched a good game but we couldn’t catch the ball.”

Frontier jumped out to an early 3-0 lead through two innings. Nico Fasulo (2-for-4) led off the first inning with a single then scored on a deep fly ball hit by Palmer three batters later. In the second, Kaden James walked followed by singles from Tyler Cusson and Ben Caron. Fasulo drove in James via a fielder’s choice, followed up by a Grayson Loos RBI single – scoring Cusson. The Redhawks left the bases loaded to end the inning.

The way Cusson was dealing on the mound for Frontier, it seemed those three runs were all he needed. The senior righty fanned four of the first five batters he faced and only gave up two hits through four innings. Williams stuck with Cusson until he reached the pitch limit in the fifth inning.

Cusson gave up two runs (both unearned) on four hits, three walks and eight strikeouts in five-plus innings of work.

“Cusson was feeling it today,” Williams said. “He had a bunch of strikeouts, he was pounding the zone and our defense had his back. We were pumped to get as much out of him as we did. He threw the max on his pitches, so we were proud of him today.”

Frontier scored a run apiece in the top of the fifth (Edes doubled and scored on a Cusson single) and sixth (Loos scored Jack Conlon with a single) while Hampshire chipped away with one run in the bottom of the fourth (Morin scored on a passed ball) and one in the sixth (Pond scored on a throwing error) before exploding for four in seventh to win the game.

Although the Redhawks’ shot at a Class B title is out the window, they are still 14-5 this season and have one more consolation game before the MIAA Division 4 state tournament.

Now, it’s about flushing Monday’s loss from the system and moving on as quickly as possible.

“At practice the next couple days, we’re just going to work on getting better,” Williams said. “We still have the consolation game, and I imagine we’re going to see Monument, so we’re gonna try to get back to winning and try to make a run in states.”