Div. 5 baseball: Pioneer reaches third straight Final Four following 8-1 win over Douglas

The Pioneer baseball team shows off its Final Four banner after beating Douglas, 8-1, in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal round on Sunday in  Northfield.

The Pioneer baseball team shows off its Final Four banner after beating Douglas, 8-1, in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal round on Sunday in  Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

The Pioneer baseball team shows off its Final Four banner after beating Douglas, 8-1, in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal round on Sunday in Northfield.

The Pioneer baseball team shows off its Final Four banner after beating Douglas, 8-1, in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal round on Sunday in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON


Staff Writer

Published: 06-09-2024 7:16 PM

Modified: 06-09-2024 8:10 PM

NORTHFIELD — For the third year in a row, the Pioneer baseball team is Final Four-bound. 

Hosting 12th-seeded Douglas on Sunday in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal round, the fourth-seeded Panthers pulled ahead 3-1 after three innings and let ace Hugh Cyhowski do the rest. 

The senior went the distance and scattered just four hits, and the Pioneer defense made play after play behind him. The Panthers tacked five insurance runs on the board in the sixth to pull away to the semifinals with an 8-1 victory. 

Pioneer (19-5) advanced to play top-seeded Georgetown, which is coming off a 9-2 win over Hopkins Academy. That semifinal contest is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Fitton Field on the campus of Holy Cross in Worcester. 

“We’ve been talking to the guys all year about how we know how to get to the Final Four,” Panthers coach Kevin Luippold said. “That was a goal of ours and we’ve accomplished that. Now, we have to learn how to get past that.

“We’re playing a great team in Georgetown,” Luippold added. “They’re one of the best high school baseball teams in the entire state. I feel like we can compete with them but it’s going to be a hard game. It’ll be a tight game no matter what.”

All season long, Pioneer has been able to find ways to score runs in a hurry late in games to either pull away or pull ahead. The five-run sixth inning on Sunday which sealed the spot in the semis showed the Panthers are a dangerous team late in games. 

“Coach has preached being a fourth quarter team all year and we’re doing it right now,” Cyhowski said. “We have to keep it up going into the next one and the one after that.” 

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The Panthers took the opening lead of the game in the second inning. Ethan Mauthe was hit by a pitch, Jackson Campbell bunted him to second and Heath Gomez smashed a base hit to center to score him, giving Pioneer a 1-0 lead. 

The Tigers (10-11) answered in the bottom of the third. Drew Smith and Alex Fano each hit singles to put runners on first and second for Evan Wheeler, who grounded to short. The flip to get Fano at second was good but the throw to first was just offline, and with the ball rolling away, Smith was able to use his speed to make it home to tie the game.

Douglas loaded the bases after Josh Farrell singled and Colin Loehr walked, but Cyhowski recorded a strikeout to keep it tied going into the bottom of the third. 

The Tigers managed just one more hit off Cyhowski the rest of the way, a single in the fifth. 

“I felt alright out there,” Cyhowski said. “I was throwing my fastball well and just throwing that the first few innings. The one inning they scored they started to jump on it so I threw cutters and it kept them off balance.” 

Cyhowski struck out three, and the Panthers defense did the job the rest of the way. Evan Tsipenyuk was a standout in the field, robbing Douglas of multiple base runners by making impressive stretches and scoops at first base. 

“Great pitching from Hugh today,” Luippold said. “We trust our arms on the mound. The later this tournament goes, whoever we see will put the bat on the ball. We’ll be seeing the top competition. If our defense stays hot like it is —with Evan making about seven scoops over at first today — and stays super clean like it has the last couple weeks throughout Western Mass. and states, we’ll be alright. I trust all our guys and that’s all you can ask for this time of year.” 

It wasn’t a tie ballgame for long. Alex McClelland singled in the bottom of the third, worked his way around the bases and scored on a wild pitch. 

Evan Tsipenyuk reached after a hard ground ball to first was bobbled, took second on the wild pitch and Mauthe drove him in with a base hit, giving Pioneer a 3-1 lead. 

Cyhowski got the rally started in the sixth with a base hit. Mauthe followed with a single before Campbell laid down a perfect bunt to second with the Tigers defense scattered, loading the bases. 

Gomez ripped a single to score Cyhowski, Jackson Glazier walked to score Mauthe and later, McClelland hit a hard shot that got through at second to drive in a pair of runners. An error on the throw in from the outfield allowed Braeden Tsipenyuk — who reached on a fielder’s choice — to score from first, giving the Panthers an 8-1 lead going into the seventh. 

“It was great to see,” Luippold said. “The guys are executing really well. They know we have to be a fourth quarter team against great teams. Douglas is a great team, they came out here and put the bat on the ball. We made the plays and luckily our hits are starting to fall. We’re stringing them together more and running the bases well. We know we have a good fourth quarter team who can put runs on the board. When we win an inning, we know we’re pretty golden from there.”