Division 3 baseball: Hawks stalk title-game spot

  • Frontier catcher Garrett DeForest talks with pitcher Matt Hildreth during tournament action last week against Putnam. The duo will look to lead the second-seeded Red Hawks into the WMass Division 3 title-game for the third time in four years this afternoon, as they’ll meet No. 3 Wahconah in the semifinals at UMass. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier's Connor Waitkus hits an RBI single against Putnam last week. Waitkus and the Red Hawks meet No. 3 Wahconah, today at 4 p.m. on the campus of UMass. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/11/2019 9:04:23 PM

It’s no secret that all season, the Frontier Regional School baseball team has focused its attention on getting another crack at defending champion Taconic.

Both teams are now one win away from that reality.

For their part, the second-seeded Red Hawks have stayed the course throughout the regular season and into the WMass tournament in hopes of punching a return ticket to play the Braves in the Division 3 final for the second year in a row.

After a 17-3 mark en route to winning the Hampshire League West Division, Frontier has allowed just two runs combined in a pair of postseason victories over Putnam and Athol. The Hawks hope to keep the momentum rolling in today’s Division 3 semifinal round, as they’ll tangle with No. 3 Wahconah (13-8) at Earl Lorden Field on the campus of UMass. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.

A win would send Frontier through to its third WMass final in four years. Despite missing last year’s postseason, Wahconah has long been a mainstay in sectional tournaments. The Warriors are just two years removed from winning back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.

Frontier has enjoyed success in this spot over the past decade. The Hawks have won six semifinal games in a row, beginning back in 2008 when they edged St. Joseph’s, 9-5. Since then, Frontier has beaten Hopkins Academy (2009), Turners Falls (2012), St. Joseph’s (2013), Hoosac Valley (2016) and Monument Mountain (2018) to earn title-game berths. The last semifinal loss? That came in 2007, a 4-2 defeat to Commerce.

The WMass final is set for Saturday at 1:15 p.m. back at UMass.

Tournament history

Today’s semifinal is the third time Frontier and Wahconah will meet in the postseason in the past six years, with the Red Hawks coming out on the wrong side of the previous two contests. In 2016, the Warriors rolled to a 13-3 victory in the Division 3 title game, and they also captured a 5-3 win in the 2014 first round.

In the 2016 final, Wahconah scored twice in each of the first two innings to take an immediate 4-0 lead before the rains came, forcing a nearly 150-minute delay beginning in the bottom of the third inning. When play resumed, Frontier was optimistic it could take advantage of a second life, but Wahconah winning pitcher Will Genaway got out of the third inning and Wahconah’s bats went right back to work in the fourth, hanging five more runs on the board to take a game-set-match 9-0 lead.

Path to UMass

Frontier opened its Division 3 tourney with a 16-1 shellacking of No. 15 Putnam in the first round, and followed that with a 5-1 win over No. 7 Athol. The team received solid pitching in both outings, with Matt Hildreth shutting down the Beavers and Dylan Apanell hold down the Red Raiders to send Frontier into today’s semifinal round.

Wahconah hasn’t had quite an easy go of it. In the opening round against 14th-seeded Mohawk Trail, the Warriors won a tighter-than-expected 5-3 decision. That was followed by a wild 12-11 win over No. 11 Monson in Monday’s quarterfinal round. How wild? Wahconah, which scored a run in the bottom of the seventh inning just to force extra innings, proceeded to allow four runs in the top of the eighth inning and trailed the Mustangs by an 11-7 margin with three outs remaining. But the Warriors scored five times in the bottom of the eighth, with Gabe Davis drawing the coveted walk-off walk with the bases loaded.

First-year coach Ernie Wellington’s club went 11-8 during the regular season but earned the No. 3 seed in the Division 3 field. Wahconah went 3-0 against local teams, sweeping two games against Mohawk (5-3 and 2-0) while blanking Athol (6-0).

Players to watch

Kevin Huban, Caden Frazier and Jake Gai are top bats for Wahconah, while catcher Joe Woronick is a top run-producer. The team pitched Tanner Hill in its postseason opener before Frazier and Chad Howes handled the duties in the quarterfinal game against Monson.

Frontier’s offense can get contributions from just about the entire lineup. Expect the likes of Connor Waitkus, Kiernan Freeman and Corbin Blight to be factoring into the equation.

On the mound, the Hawks have plenty of arms available. Besides Hildreth and Apanell, Kalen Evans and Xavier Santiago are other pitchers who could be called upon if needed.


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