Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Wahconah baseball completes long journey
AMHERST >> To say it was a long day at Earl Lorden Field would be an understatement.
But it wasn't nearly as long as the journey Wahconah had to take to win a Western Massachusetts Division III baseball championship.
"Coming from 3-17 freshman year and just making the playoffs is something we've dreamed of since freshman year," Wahconah shortstop Andrew Beaudoin said shortly after the Warriors beat Frontier to clinch their first Western Massachusetts baseball title in nearly a decade.
It was 2007 when Wahconah beat Southwick 4-3 at Joe Wolfe Field in North Adams on their way to playing — and losing — in a state championship game at LaLacheur Field in Lowell.
In five of the next six seasons, Wahconah didn't even make the Western Mass. tournament. The Warriors finally returned to the tournament in Division III in 2014 and 2015, coming up short of bringing home a trophy each time.
And then there was 2016, and a championship game where Wahconah had to endure a rain delay of two hours, 35 minutes, before bringing home the title.
"This feels great," said Beaudoin. "I'm sure it feels great for Coach [Rob] Cowdrey, his first year ever. It's awesome."
Wahconah beat Frontier 13-3 in the championship game, marking the first time these two traditional post-season rivals played each other on the diamond since the Warriors beat Frontier in the first round of the 2014 tournament.
Wahconah got its second win of the tournament from right-hander Will Genaway.
"It's a great feeling, especially for all the work we put in during the off-season," Genaway said shortly after collecting the trophy, posing for pictures and selfies with his teammates. "It's a great journey and I wouldn't want to do it with any other group of guys. It's just amazing."
What might be amazing to those of us outside of the Wahconah locker room is just how far the Warriors came to win this championship.
The title game was their sixth consecutive victory, which is a nice streak itself. But six weeks ago, the Warriors were most assuredly on the outside looking in when it came to the postseason.
"We started out 3-5, and at that point, we said we just have to make the tournament," Wahconah catcher Matt Schneider said. "We started to get a couple of big wins. When we got to the tournament, anything could happen."
Since that 3-5 mark, the Warriors have been a sterling 13-3, including that wild 13-9 win over top-seeded South Hadley in the Division III semifinal.
But what might be most impressive about what Wahconah has done is that the Warriors have won in multiple ways.
They won their tournament opener 2-1 against Monument Mountain, when Genaway threw a complete-game, four-hitter. He did not pitch against South Hadley, but held a Frontier team that had scored 13 runs in two games to three runs, not giving up any until his team had staked him to a nine-run lead.
If you had any thought that the two-plus hour rain delay might have dulled the sharpness that Wahconah started with, Beaudoin inferred that the delay was never an issue.
"We're a bunch of clowns. The rain delay was just a break for us," he said with a laugh. "We got some good laughs in, and we came out and did our thing — as usual."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.