Underdog Hawks reach final

  • Frontier players celebrate Lily Spencer’s three-run home run against Hoosac Valley in the top of the third inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino Field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Olivia Vecellio, front, and Olivia Deane embrace after defeating Hoosac Valley in their WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier players rush the mound after defeating Hoosac Valley in their WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Lily Spencer hits a three-run home run over the left field fence against Hoosac Valley in the top of the third inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino Field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Olivia Deane singles against Hoosac Valley in the top of the fourth inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Olivia Vecellio hits a single against Hoosac Valley in the top of the third inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier pitcher Olivia Deane throws against Hoosac Valley in the bottom of the second inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier third baseman Meybelyn Green throws to first for an out against Hoosac Valley in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier right fielder Olivia Vecellio grabs a fly ball for an out against Hoosac Valley in the bottom of the fifth inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier left fielder Ariana Walker makes a catch on the run for an out against Hoosac Valley in the bottom of the third inning Friday. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier right fielder Olivia Vecellio grabs a fly ball for an out against Hoosac Valley in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier baserunner Lily Spencer, left, gets tagged out on a close play at third base by Hoosac Valley’s Rylynn Witek in the top of the fourth inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier baserunner Madison Fifield, left, slides into third base tagged out on a close play by Hoosac Valley’s Rylynn Witek in the top of the fifth inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Chloe Cutting throws a ball in from the left field warning track against Hoosac Valley in the bottom of the fifth inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Natalie Denkiewicz hits an RBI single against Hoosac Valley in the top of the fourth inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier pitcher Olivia Deane throws against Hoosac Valley in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier players celebrate Lily Spencer’s three-run home run against Hoosac Valley in the top of the third inning Friday during the WMass Div. 2 softball semifinal game at Sortino field on the UMass Campus in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/14/2019 9:57:44 PM
Modified: 6/14/2019 9:57:29 PM

AMHERST — Lily Spencer found herself in an atypical situation. The Frontier Regional School junior was embroiled in a battle at the plate with Hoosac Valley pitcher Madi Puppolo, working the count full in a key spot early in the WMass Division 2 semifinal, Friday.

“The count was running deep and that’s unusual for me,” said Spencer. “I usually go up there swinging right away.”

Spencer may not be used to seeing 3-2 pitches, but she’ll likely welcome the situation going forward. With her team trailing 3-0 in the top of the third inning and in need of a spark, Spencer drilled a three-run home run over the fence in left field. The long ball jumpstarted an offensive barrage for the seventh-seeded Red Hawks, which pounded out 18 hits and batted around in both the third and fourth innings to rally for an impressive 16-11 victory over the third-seeded Hurricanes at Sortino Field on the campus of UMass.

Frontier (16-7) will play top-seeded Hampshire (17-5), a 5-0 winner over Wahconah in Friday’s other semifinal, in the Division 2 championship game this afternoon at 4 p.m. back at UMass.

“Leading off with Lily Spencer… she’s just so confident,” Frontier head coach Gary Deane said. “She makes the game look so easy. She just goes out and has fun. Two strikes, doesn’t bother her. She hits for power, she hits singles, she can do it all offensively. She’s probably hitting .600 in the last couple of weeks. That three-run home run started us off and totally got us going. Our dugout exploded with joy and excitement.”

Not much went Frontier’s way into the third inning, though CC Greene and Olivia Vecellio opened the frame with back-to-back singles, setting the stage for Spencer’s three-run shot that certainly changed the complexion of the game.

“Once you feel it off the bat, it’s a feeling you know and love, knowing it’s going to go over (the fence). It was great,” the Frontier catcher said.

While Spencer’s home run tied the game, the upstart Red Hawks were far from finished in the top of the third. Olivia Deane followed with a double and Natalie Denkiewicz walked, with the pair moving up after a Maddie Fifield sacrifice bunt. Ariana Walker came through with a two-run, bloop single that put Frontier on top, 5-3. Macy Ring added an RBI single of her own later in the frame, and the six-spot had the team’s offense feeling particularly comfortable against Puppolo.

“We have a great offense. All the way, one through nine, even through to our reinforcements…. it just kind of caught on,” Gary Deane said. “This matchup, we felt like we had it. The girls were so confident going in.”

Spencer said that once her team gets going, they are very tough to slow down offensively.

“We work super hard on the mental game. Once we knew we could hit her and were able to get things going, we’re fine,” she said. “It’s just getting things in motion sometimes that we struggle with. I think we were all having jitters in the first and second inning. We got together in the dugout and said, ‘That’s it. Let’s start playing the game we know how to play.’”

While the six-run third inning made an early statement, Frontier’s top of the fourth inning put things out of reach. The Hawks sent 11 batters to the plate, batting around for the second consecutive inning. Denkiewicz (RBI single), Ring (two-run single) and Vecellio (RBI single) all drove in runs, as the squad took advantage of two Hoosac Valley errors and two wild pitches to storm ahead, 14-3.

“We had a couple big innings there. We were able to get a little bit of a buffer,” Deane said.

The Hurricanes (17-5) chipped away in the final three innings, pushing three runs across in both the fifth and seventh frames. But the deficit never shrank below five runs, as Olivia Deane went all seven innings, striking out three and walking two to nab the complete-game victory in the circle.

“For some reason, the ball dropped on us a couple times,” admitted Gary Deane. “That’s not our game, we’re a better defensive team than we showed today. But I don’t think that knocked our confidence. We’ve put up double-digit runs in a lot of games this year.”

It’s been a wild ride for the Red Hawks, which knocked off second-seeded Easthampton, 4-3, in the quarterfinal round, and now find themselves in their 10th sectional final in program history and first since 2014. That game was also against Hampshire, a 2-1 Red Raiders win in 10 innings. Thanks to their recent run of play, and the way the Hawks can hit the ball, there’s no reason to think they won’t be right in the thick of things today.

“I think we’re surprising people,” Gary Deane said. “I’ve never been here, none of them have ever been here before, so the seedings really don’t matter. We’re just brimming with confidence.”

Spencer finished 3-for-5 with four RBIs to pace a Frontier offense that also received three hits apiece from Olivia Deane, Walker (three RBIs) and Vecellio (RBI). Denkiewicz and Ring had two hits apiece, as eight of the nine batters in the Hawks lineup had at least one hit.

“There’s a lot of girls on this team who haven’t gone to western Mass. (finals) in any sport,” began Spencer. “So the thing in Deerfield is, you get a parade when you go to western Mass. So that’s what everybody has been wanting to do. Getting to this level of softball, it’s honestly the best feeling in the world.

“There’s nothing to lose,” she continued. “The other teams are on the pedestal and we have to knock them off. That’s how we’re approaching these situations in every game.”

Frontier 16, Hoosac Valley 11

Frontier .................... 006 811 0 — 16  18  5

Hoosac Valley ........  120 131 3 — 11  15  4

Hits: (F) Spencer 3, Deane 3, Denkiewicz 2, Walker 3, Fuller, Ring 2, Greene, Vecellio 3. (HV) Bradley, Witek, Puppolo 3, Wohrle, Stansfield 2, Bishop 2, Braman, Faucher 2, Bird 2.

2B: (F) Deane. (HV) Witek, Puppolo 2, Bishop.

HR: (F) Spencer.

RBI: (F) Spencer 4, Denkiewicz, Walker 3, Ring 3, Vecellio. (HV) Witek 2, Puppolo 2, Wohrle, Stansfield, Bishop 2, Bird.

WP: Deane (7ip, 3k, 2bb).

LP: Puppolo (7ip, 3k, 2bb).




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