SPRINGFIELD — In a game where runs crossed the plate at a dizzying pace, Wahconah found some relief.
It came in the form of sophomore pitcher Pat Butler, who closed out Wahconah's wild 13-9 Western Massachusetts Division III semifinal victory over top-seeded South Hadley Wednesday at Western New England University.
No. 4 Wahconah (15-8) will meet No. 3 Frontier in the final Saturday at 11 a.m. at the University of Massachusetts. Frontier beat Hoosac Valley, 8-2 in the other semifinal.
This was a game of momentum swings. Wahconah had leads of 4-1 and 5-4 before South Hadley rallied to take a 9-5 advantage.
"This game was wild,'' Wahconah coach Rob Cowdrey said. "But the best thing was when we were down 9-5 we never gave up. That's heart of this team coming through game after game after game. I can't say enough about them.''
Wahconah scored seven runs on eight hits during the fifth inning to take a 12-9 lead and added another run in the sixth to build a four-run lead.
"This team has confidence, but they're not cocky,'' Cowdrey said. "They know they can play, they're scrappy, they never give up and they don't get rattled.''
Butler came on in relief of starter Gage Frazier and hurled three innings of two-hit relief. He survived a bases-loaded situation in the seventh, but got the final out on a comebacker to the mound.
"Pat was huge for us,'' Cowdrey said. "What benefited him was the change of speed from Gage. Maybe I kept him in a little too long, but the plan all along was to bring in Pat, who has a tight curveball and it threw them off.''
Butler kept his composure.
"For a sophomore, he is calm and cool,'' Cowdrey said. "He's got good stuff. He doesn't get rattled and that's why we can throw him in these situations.''
The teams combined for 24 runs and 33 hits. Most relievers would want no part of such a game, but Butler wanted the ball.
"Yeah, both teams were hitting the ball and I was a little nervous,'' Butler said. "But I settled in after a while. I knew I just had to throw strikes.''
South Hadley struck first. The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Alex Dragon walked and scored on triple by Dave Pratt.
The Warriors erased the deficit with a four-run third inning. Andrew Beaudoin had an RBI single, Matt Schnieder drove in a run on a fielder's choice and a throwing error enable another run to score, before Frazier's sacrifice fly made it 4-1.
South Hadley plated three more runs in the third to forge a 4-4 tie. A two-run triple by Ted Doyle and an RBI single by Dragon created the deadlock.
But Ben Schmitt smashed a solo home run over the right field fence in the fourth to provide the Warriors with a 5-4 edge.
"I was just looking for a good pitch to hit and he gave me a fastball right down the middle,'' Schmitt said. "I put a pretty good swing on it and it just flew.''
The lead didn't last long. South Hadley struck for five runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 9-5 lead.
James Foley, Adam Plichowski, Doyle, Dragon, Pratt, Justin Kleeberg and Colin Paleologpoulos had big hits during the inning.
Wahconah erased that deficit by scoring seven runs on eight hits in the fifth inning. Shane Sinopoli's two-run single keyed the inning.
Ty Cowdrey, Beaudoin, Matt Schnieder, Austin Cancilla, Frazier and Cam Taylor also drove in runs during the inning. Wahconah closed the scoring in the sixth when Taylor tripled and scored on a single by Will Genaway.
"This was probably one of the craziest baseball games I've ever been a part of,'' Schmitt said.
Frazier, Butler (5) and Schnieder. Pilchowski, Wilson (4), Fleming (5), Mooney (5) and Pratt. HR-Schmitt (W).