It's probably no coincidence that Wahconah Regional third baseman Shannon Lussier and her softball team are heating up at the same time.
Wahconah started the season 0-2 but won its fifth straight game on Saturday, beating Palmer 7-5, in a battle between two perennial Western Massachusetts Division II powers.
Lussier went 1 for 4 in the win over Palmer Saturday, cooling her off to a still-pretty-impressive 9 for 12 at the plate with a pair of home runs in Wahconah's 3-0 week. That's why the junior third baseman was voted the Eagle's Player of the Week.
"It was unexpected" to start the year 0-2, Lussier said, "because we had good, strong practices and we've been working really hard before the season started. It was a little upsetting to lose our first two games. We're coming back and we're winning now."
Lussier's roll started on Wednesday when the junior went 4 for 4 with a pair of solo home runs in the Warriors' 8-4 win at Hoosac Valley. One day later, Wahconah faced Division I Agawam and routed the Brownies 10-1 as Lussier had another 4 for 4 day. She had a triple and three singles.
"I started feeling very comfortable [after] my first hit in the Hoosac game," she said, "which started off my hits [streak]. It got me going."
In high school softball, a home run can be deceiving. Several fields don't have fences, so home runs don't necessarily leave the yard.
But there is one thing for certain: A home run hit in an open ball field had better be smoked. Hoosac coach Morgan Shafer said both of Lussier's round-trippers were crushed into the gaps.
"I'm a strong hitter, and my home runs were hard gap shots to right-center field -- both of them," she said.
Wahconah's run started after the Warriors lost a hard-fought 4-1 decision to Pittsfield back on April 10. Both teams are North Division powers and these games are usually circled on each team's schedules. But it was right after that when things started to turn for Wahconah.
"We started hitting, because in our first two games we struggled at the plate a little bit," said Lussier. "Now, every single person on our team -- one through nine in our order -- is just hitting the ball. We're on a good winning streak right now."
On Saturday, Lussier had only one hit as the Warriors beat the Panthers 7-5, to keep the streak going. Palmer was the No. 1 seed in last year's Division II tournament, while Wahconah had been the top seed in each of the two years before that.
Success tends to breed success, but it might also breed pressure to reach the bar set by previous teams. Lussier said that this current Wahconah team looks fondly at what had gone before, but the current group of Warriors aren't defending anything.
"I don't think we feel pressure. We're a different team," she said. "We all have different strengths than our previous teams.
"We're just finding a way to make it work."
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