WMass Div. 3 baseball: Mohawk eliminated

  • Mohawk Trail left-hander Jordan Grenier delivers a pitch during the 14th-seeded Warriors’ 5-3 loss to No. 3 Wahconah in a WMass Division 3 first-round game played Friday afternoon in Dalton. FOR THE RECORDER/GEOFF SMITH

For the Recorder
Published: 6/7/2019 10:06:17 PM
Modified: 6/7/2019 10:06:05 PM

DALTON — One play can make all the difference in a game. 

Third-seeded Wahconah took a three-run lead into the top of the third inning in Friday’s Western Massachusetts Division 3 first-round game against Mohawk Trail. The team gave back one of those runs with a wild pitch, and had runners on second and third, when Mohawk’s Reuben Bassett stepped into the box. Bassett roped a 1-2 pitch up the middle that Wahconah pitcher Tanner Hill somehow managed to catch. It took away Mohawk’s momentum, while Hill and the third-seeded Warriors did the rest in a 5-3 win.

“That burst our bubble,” Mohawk coach Bill Buck said. “We had runners on second and third, and with my eyes, I thought it went through and I’m yelling ‘Go.’ Then I realized he caught it afterward. 

“He made a hell of a play. That’s a baseball play.”

Hill, who gave up two runs in the second inning to go with the one run in the third, shut Mohawk down the rest of the way. Fourteenth-seeded Mohawk Trail (8-13) had six hits in the first three innings, but was limited to just two over the final four shutout frames. At one point, Hill retired 11 of 12 batters he faced. No Mohawk runner got beyond first base over the final four innings for the host Warriors (12-8).

When the day was over, Hill had a complete game. He gave up three runs on eight hits, with two walks and four strikeouts. In fact, Hill threw 45 pitches over the final three innings when he had thrown 31 through two.

“Once I started warming up, I was [throwing] pretty good in the zone,” said Hill. “Once I started throwing strikes pretty continuously and I got my curve working.”

The hitting did not exist when these teams played back in April. Wahconah managed only one hit, an RBI single by Chad Howes, in a 2-0 win over Mohawk. On Friday, Wahconah had more hits in the first inning than it did in seven back in April.

“My pitcher pitched a one-hitter back in April,” said Buck. “We had nine hits and we didn’t score.” 

Mohawk starter Cam Lococo hit Jake Gai with the game’s first pitch, and Gai went to third on Kevin Huban’s infield single. Gai scored on a Caden Frazier sacrifice fly and Hill followed with an RBI single, to make it 2-0. 

Mohawk Trail parlayed three hits into two runs, with Lococo driving in one on a single and Jordan Grenier bringing Bassett in on a ground out.

Wahconah took the lead for keeps in the bottom of the second. Howes, who had that solitary single in the first game, led off with a single. Lococo retired the next two, but left a pitch up to Gai, who drove a ball to the fence in right-center for a triple. Gai scored on a successful squeeze bunt by Huban, while Frazier hit an infield single and Huban scored when third baseman Jared Jacobs threw the ball away.

Mohawk got one of those runs back in the third, but Hill’s great defensive play and a ground out ended the threat, and Wahconah went on from there.

Buck used two pitchers, Lococo and lefty Grenier, who came in from center field to face left-handed hitters. He gave up only one hit, a single to the left-handed hitting Gai.

“I knew it was going to be a chess game,” said Buck. “That’s why you saw us going back and forth with the pitching.”

Lococo finished up surrendering five runs, four earned, on six hits. He struck out one and did not walk anyone.

Gai and Huban both had two hits, scored two runs and drove in one each. Jackson Hicks had two of Mohawk’s eight hits.

The win keeps Wahconah’s championship hopes alive. The Warriors won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017. They will try to move one step closer to a championship game when they host No. 9 Palmer, a 9-6 winner over sixth-seeded Hoosac Valley, on Thursday.

“I’m proud of the kids. They played hard all year,” said Buck. “We started the year 0-6, coming back and making the tournament, that’s a great accomplishment. I have to pat our seniors on the back. They really rallied the kids the last couple of weeks of the season.

“This game, we just made a couple of “Me’s,” which I call mental errors that really cost us.”

Wahconah 5, Mohawk 3

Mohawk .................. 021 000 0 — 3  8  1

Wahconah ..............  230 000 x — 5  6  0

WP: Hill (7ip, 4k, 2bb).

LP: Lococo (4 2/3ip, 1k, 0bb), Grenier (1 1/3ip)

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