Frontier a win from crown

  • Frontier winning pitcher Matt Hildreth releases a pitch against Monument in the top of the second inning Wednesday night at Vets Field in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Frontier’s Connor Waitkus (10) singles in the bottom of the fourth inning against Monument Wednesday night at Vets Field in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Frontier’s Bryce Jordan (13) celebrates with Bryan Baumann (6), right, after scoring in the bottom of the fourth inning against Monument Wednesday night at Vets Field in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Frontier winning pitcher Matt Hildreth throws against Monument in the top of the third inning on Wednesday night at Vets Field in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

GREENFIELD — When two evenly matched teams get together on a baseball diamond, the outcome can come down to fundamentals.

In Wednesday night’s Western Massachusetts Division III semifinal game at Veterans Memorial Field, second-seeded Frontier Regional School did all the little things to win, while third-seeded Monument Mountain Regional High School did not.

The Hawks’ ability to bunt and run the bases was on full display, while the Spartans committed three costly errors and had several other fielding mistakes as Frontier punched its ticket to the WMass championship game with a 8-5 victory.

Frontier (21-1) will face top-seeded and defending Division I state champion Taconic High School (19-3) Saturday afternoon at 1:15 at Earl Lorden Field on the campus of the University of Massachusetts for the WMass title. It’s the second time in three years that Frontier will play in the championship game, losing to Wahconah Regional High School, 13-3, in the 2016 title game.

Monument took a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the fourth inning off Frontier starter and winner Matt Hildreth, but the Red Hawks came right back in the bottom of the frame with three runs to take the lead for good. Frontier tacked on three more runs in the fifth, as the Spartans’ defense fell apart, and the Hawks tacked on two more in the sixth as Monument again struggled defensively.

The Spartans made things interesting with three runs in the seventh, but Connor Waitkus came on in relief of pitcher Dylan Apanell to get the final out and earn the save.

Hildreth took a no-hitter into the fourth inning as he matched Monument starter Tyler Wade with zeros on the scoreboard through the first three frames. Hildreth got the first two outs in the fourth, but Jared Henry and Kade Grober each singled with two outs before Michael Goretti blasted a double to deep center to score both runners and stake the Spartans to a 2-0 lead.

In the bottom of the inning, Bryan Baumann led off with a walk and immediately made Wade pay when Kiernan Freeman doubled to left-center. Waitkus followed with a single to put runners on the corners, and Waitkus then stole second and on the errant throw down, Freeman scored to tie the game. After an out, Jacob Bryant hit an infield single to score Waitkus and give Frontier a 3-2 lead.

After Hildreth pitched a scoreless top of the fifth, Frontier went right back to work against Monument reliever Graham Herrick. The junior pitcher got ahead of Frontier No. 9 hitter Garrett DeForest 0-2 before DeForest took the third pitch and stroked a double to deep center.

“The biggest thing that coach stresses is to never give up on an at-bat,” DeForest said of the hit. “Just keep your head in it and see that third pitch and drive it deep.”

That hit seemed to give Frontier a lot of confidence as four of the next five hitters reached base. Hildreth walked and both runners moved up a base when Herrick threw a curve ball to Baumann — who was trying to bunt — for a wild pitch. Baumann wound up singling to left to drive in DeForest and put runners on the corners. Baumann then appeared to get picked off first base, but when the first baseman threw to second, Hildreth broke for home and scored without a throw.

Making matters worse for the Spartans was that the defense was unable to get Baumann out in the run down, as the runner slid in safely to second. Waitkus immediately made that play big as he blasted an RBI double to center to make it 6-2. Later in the inning, Waitkus got caught in a run down but again the Spartans were unable to execute and Waitkus was safe at third following an obstruction call. Herrick got out of the inning without further damage.

The Hawks did add what wound up being two important runs in the sixth as Bryce Jordan and DeForest each led off with singles. Jordan scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by Baumann, and DeForest scored when Freeman reached on a two-out error.

Monument scored three times in the seventh, the comeback coming on suddenly. Max Joyner stood on first base with two outs when Wade belted a triple and scored when Jackson Campbell singled. Herrick followed with a single to right that got by the right fielder, allowing Campbell to score and Herrick to get to third, bringing the tying run to the on-deck circle. At that point, Williams brought in Waitkus and the reliever got Henry to ground out to short for the final out.

“We are super excited to be back in the championship game and trying to get a W against that big beast that is Taconic,” Williams said.

Hildreth finished with four strikeouts and one walk in five innings to earn the win.

“Early on, he was mixing up his pitches so well, hitting all his spots, he was straight ice out there,” Williams said. “No matter how big the situation, he responds to it and he’s proven that time and time again this season.”