Honoring Senior Student-Athletes: Frontier Red Hawks

  • Frontier catcher Lily Spencer tags out Hampshire Regional baserunner Briana Sulikowski in a cloud of dust at home plate during the 2019 WMass Division 2 softball championship on the UMass campus in Amherst. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Connor Waitkus hits a single against Wahconah during the 2019 WMass Division 3 semifinal at Lorden Field in Amherst. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dylan Apanell, of Frontier, pitches during the 2019 WMass Division 3 semifinal. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Frontier’s Sofia Patten, left, serves during her second doubles match with partner Jalen Sullivan against Greenfield last year. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Jalen Sullivan returns a shot during the second doubles match with partner Sofia Patten against Greenfield last year. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Cassidy Bardwell returns a shot during her first doubles match with partner Coleman Hartner against Greenfield last year. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Maddie Fifield hits an RBI single against Easthampton in action during a previous softball season. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier's Tori Speth lunges to return a shot against Turners Falls during a previous match. Staff FILE Photo/Dan Little

  • Frontier's Ryan Huit competes against Mahar in the javelin during a previous meet. Staff FILE Photo/Dan Little

  • Frontier catcher Garrett Deforest (2), left, stretches to get the force out at home plate against Mahar's Todd Chaisson (8) in a previous baseball game. Staff FILE Photo/Dan Little

  • Frontier's Emmett McGranaghan competes in the 110-meter hurdles last year in South Deerfield. Staff FILE Photo/Dan Little

  • Frontier's Olivia Vecellio competes in the javelin during the 2018 Western Mass. Division 2 Track & Field Championships. STAFF FILE PHOTO/Dan Little

  • Frontier's Adrienne Josephs competes in a past cross country meet. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/4/2020 4:08:56 PM

It was a spring season that never happened.

While folks throughout Franklin County have been impacted over the past few months due to the coronavirus pandemic, we here at the Recorder sports department have decided to honor all the senior student-athletes who were unable to participate in spring sports. Practices and games were canceled, championship trophies weren’t able to be chased, but the graduating seniors throughout our coverage area still deserve to have their stories told and be honored.

We will recognize all eight of our MIAA schools over the course of two weeks, with senior rosters, photos and information about them all.

We continue today with Frontier Regional School’s seniors. Here are their stories, as told by their coaches:

Baseball

Seniors: Garrett DeForest, Bryan Baumann, Dylan Apanell, Connor Waitkus, Gabe Gochinski, Zach Renaud, Donovan Hoffman

This was going to be the year.

After knocking on the door of the Western Mass. Division 3 title for some time, the Red Hawks had all the pieces necessary to get the job done this spring.

Head coach Chris Williams put together a demanding schedule, with games against the likes of powerhouses Taconic and Amherst, in hopes that come June, Frontier would be battle-tested and ready to get back to UMass.

Not having a 2020 campaign, and saying goodbye to his talented senior class, has not been easy for Williams.

“This senior class at Frontier Regional remains exceptionally talented,” the coach said. “Hitting, fielding, pitching, camaraderie... this team had the skills to win baseball games. And they proved it. Together as a team, they were complete. They were committed to improvement and chasing titles in Western Mass. Many had been competing at the varsity level going into what would have been four years.”

Frontier was fresh off back-to-back Hampshire League West titles, and Williams said the goal was to win a sectional title — a road that likely would have necessitated breaking through and beating Taconic in a Western Mass. final.

“The senior class was ramped up for another shot,” he said. “We had developed an ‘all or nothing’ mentality, motivated to make that last push during their final season.”

There was certainly no shortage of talent in the Frontier senior class. Whether it be DeForest behind the plate, Baumann and Waitkus up the middle, Apanell and Gochinski on the mound, or Hoffman and Renaud chipping in, the Red Hawks were loaded on the field. Williams was perhaps most impressed with their presence off the diamond, however.

“The glory of this team, this senior class, goes well beyond the chalk lines,” he began. “They influenced and inspired ballplayers at the youth level and established a cherished presence in our community. Their willingness to wake up on off days and make time after practice boosted the image of our program and recruited local support.

“Going above and beyond each year helped raise big-time money during fundraisers and upgrade our facilities to top status,” he continued. “Furthermore, their relentless efforts drew bigger crowds on game day and all sorts of quick praises around town that never got old for these gifted ballplayers. Our baseball culture at Frontier is the product of their passion for this game. There are no words to describe how disappointed we all are during these experiences. Any of us would give anything to throw live or smash some BP together.”

Softball

Seniors: Lily Spencer, Maddie Fifield, Mandy Fuller

Frontier softball coach Gary Deane has been around his trio of seniors since they were in middle school. Having coached them on up before taking over the varsity club in 2018, he had hoped they would get the chance to go out on top with a Western Mass. Division 2 title this spring.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have coached these three young women on middle school, JV, and varsity teams at Frontier as I followed them up through each of the levels,” explained Deane. “I was very close to this unique group, having known them for so long and seen them play in probably over a hundred games total. These seniors would’ve anchored the most talented team Frontier has had in years and were extremely eager to return to the Western Mass. tournament and chase down a Western Mass. title.

“One of their important and lasting legacies is their positive influence on younger softball players through our free clinics and by assisting at rec-league practices.”

Spencer was the heart and soul of the Frontier squad, anchoring everything from behind the plate as a veteran starting catcher. She hit .500 a year ago and went an impressive 12-for-16 during last year’s postseason run that saw the Hawks reach the sectional title game. Spencer led the roster in hits, RBIs and batting average in 2019, in addition to her work defensively behind the plate and off the field as a leader.

“Lily’s intensity and work ethic will benefit her in so many aspects of her life,” lauded Deane. “She enjoyed the work of practice as much as the competition of games. She asked me early last season why I didn’t have her catch more games. I told her it was because I wanted to protect her from injury and that she could perhaps use additional practice blocking. She then spent all weekend working independently on blocking drills. We will all miss her leadership, relentless drive, and enthusiasm for the game of softball.”

Fifield announced her presence on the Frontier varsity roster with authority. Back in 2017, upon getting the call up from JV as a freshman, she drilled a home run over the fence in South Deerfield, and was off and running.

“I coached Maddie on her fifth-grade rec softball team and I remember thinking she enjoyed softball in her quiet but smiling manner more than most of the others,” began Deane. “So along with her parents, I convinced her to continue to play ball over the summer for the Suburban League, and she really got into it. An athlete who is easy to root for, she was voted a captain her junior year. Maddie excelled throughout her Frontier softball experience, battling occasional injuries but always bouncing back strong.”

Fifield went errorless in 22 games last year as the team’s first baseman, and batted .333 in the regular season as a junior.

“Her maturity, enjoyment of the game, and a terrific sense of humor will be sorely missed as she leaves a big gap over at first base next year,” said Deane.

Fuller persevered through multiple foot surgeries during her high school career which limited her time on the field. 

“I’ve known Mandy since she was in elementary school,” began Deane. “Mandy truly loves the game and I’m sure she will play it all her life. She’s a multi-sport athlete who never made excuses even when she was playing injured. Despite this recovery time she played softball nearly year-round to make up for the missing time and keep fresh.”

On the field, Fuller had multi-hit games on three different occasions as a junior in 2019.

“I was very inspired by her ability to keep positive throughout it all and her firm belief that she would return to play 100 percent healthy her senior year,” Deane said. “Her toughness, positivity, and resiliency will be well remembered at Frontier.”

Girls tennis

Seniors: Kayleigh Aucoin, Cassidy Bardwell, Sofia Patten, Erin Senn, Tori Speth, Jalen Sullivan

Fresh off a tournament appearance and with a loaded core returning, expectations were also high for the Frontier girls’ tennis team. The Red Hawks, led at the top of the lineup by Tori Speth, had six seniors on the squad this spring and all were slated to make key contributions.

“The team was really looking forward to building on what they accomplished last season,” Frontier coach James Fitzgerald said. “They were brimming with confidence and really excited for the season. My heart goes out to them because they didn’t get the chance to finish what we started last season.”

Fitzgerald said that while it was a talented bunch on the tennis court, his roster was full of impressive student-athletes outside the lines.

“They will carry that confidence with them as they begin new journeys,” he said. “It was an honor and pleasure to coach this group of amazing young ladies, and I have absolutely no doubt that all of them will reach whatever goals they set for themselves.”

Boys track & field

Seniors: Emmett McGranaghan, Fisher Talbot-Hills, Brett Robinson, Ryan Huit, KC Mattson, Ben Morse, Jared Abt, Max Rubin, Michael Trueswell

Frontier boys’ track & field coach Walt Flynn said his senior class was full of key contributors from the program’s 2019 Intercounty League championship, and there was every indication that the squad could put together another impressive spring in 2020.

McGranaghan placed sixth in the pole vault in both the WMass Division 2 championship and Central/West D2 championship meets.

Talbot-Hills took seventh in the 110-meter high hurdles at Western Mass., and was 13th in the event at Central/West (second-best finish of a WMass runner) despite making his track debut in 2019.

Robinson would have been returning from a 2019 season interrupted by surgery. He was the captain of the cross country team this past fall that won a league title.

Huit has been the top javelin thrower on the roster for several years, while Mattson was a multi-event scorer who Flynn said was “perhaps the most improved athlete in this class.”

Morse was another outstanding athlete who returned from serious injuries a number of seasons back, while Abt (javelin), Trueswell (javelin, sprinter) and Rubin (distance runner) were other seniors set to make their mark in 2020.

Girls track & field

Seniors: Evelyn Boyden, Coriann Delaney, Adrienne Josephs, Alexa Kassis, Grace Lee, Abigail Sampson, Claudia Rajballie, Olivia Vecellio

Not being out on the track every day is an unfamiliar feeling for Frontier girls’ track & field coach Bob Smith. 

“I cannot tell you how much I missed all the girls this spring,” he said. “After forty seasons, it was a tough thing not to go to practice every day, go to meets and invitationals, and see the Frontier girls uphold the traditions of excellence that are hallmarks of Frontier track and field.”

Boyden would have completed her sixth year with the program. A cross-country co-captain last fall, she was looking to improve in the 800 meters and discus this spring.

“She has always been a true blue Frontier athlete, giving her best effort in every event she entered,” said Smith. “She was reliable, and set a fine example for younger girls to follow.”

Delaney, a top skier in Western Mass., competed in the long jump and the 800, and Smith said her strength as a great skier gave her the same kind of grit needed on the track.

“She was always there for us, and it is a shame she never got closure on her track career,” he said. “When it seemed the season might still be possible, she texted me regularly to talk about workouts and plan for improvement. A great kid.”

Josephs was set to rejoin the team this season. Fresh off a fine cross country season, Smith hoped that momentum would carry into 2020.

“She was a very fine distance runner, and if her fall XC season was an indicator, this track season would have been her best ever,” he said.

Smith said Kassis texted him recently that she missed track terribly, and he felt her attitude was going to lead to good things this spring.

“That attitude marked her years with the team plainly, and this would have been a great season for her in horizontal jumping,” he offered. “She worked hard each day in practice, prepared well for competition, and looked forward to every day out of the track.”

Lee was expected to compete in the long jump this year, and Smith was excited to see what she could do in her final season as a Red Hawk.

“She suggested she might try some new events this year,” he said.

Rajballie was set to be a tri-captain, and Smith said that her 400 hurdles time improved so much over her career that she would have been in contention this spring.

“I think she really missed triple jump, where she finally managed to qualify for the postseason last year, and set her sights on getting out into the mid thirties as a senior,” he said. “Her leadership would have been stellar as a captain.”

Sampson was set for a big spring in the hurdles to close out her career.

“She so looked forward to training and getting ready for hurdling all winter,” Smith said. “I will miss her work ethic and her wonderfully sweet personality on the team.”

Vecellio played softball last year, but was set to return to the track and build on a sophomore season when she won the Division 2 title in both the javelin and discus. All signs pointed to a monster season on the track, closing out her high school career in fine fashion.

“I am very certain that she would have had a stellar senior season, and she was looking forward to setting the record in discus which has stood since the late 1980s,” Smith said.


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