Wahconah softball earns Western Mass. D-II championship
AMHERST -- Wahconah Regional toted its 20-game winning streak here Wednesday afternoon, knowing that extending the streak would bring a Western Massachusetts softball title home to Dalton.
The Warriors (21-2) took much of the suspense of the Division II championship game away with a five-run first inning and added five more in the fifth en route to a 10-0 win over top-seeded Belchertown (18-5) at the University of Massachusetts, pounding out 13 hits in the process.
"They weren't going to be denied today. I could tell when we got on the bus," said Wahconah coach Dustin Belcher. "I looked at my coaching staff and said ‘We're going to get this done today.' "
The win by Wahconah sets up a semifinal matchup today against the last two state champions. The Warriors, state champs in 2011, will face 2012 Division II champion Grafton here at 5 p.m. Wednesday's win also gave Wahconah three Western Mass titles in the last four years.
"It's just such a great feeling to come out here with these girls. I love these girls," said Wahconah shortstop Gabby Lavinio, grinning ear-to-ear. "We worked so hard all season for this."
Becca Grunow got the shutout and held the Orioles to five hits and one walk, striking out three. The Warriors did commit three errors, but none were harmful. In fact, the Wahconah senior was helped out by her defense.
Belchertown's Erica Boileau hit a two-out double in the second but was caught in a 6-3-5 double play when she was out trying to take third after Erin Read-Coates grounded out. One inning later, the Orioles had runners on the corners with two outs when Samantha Manitsas hit a sinking liner to left but Bizzy King made the sliding grab.
The Warriors came out and didn't look like a team that hadn't played a game in a week. They scored five runs on five hits and a door-opening error.
The error came after the first pitch of the game. Erin Grogan grounded to third and Belchertown's Erinne Dull airmailed the throw down the right-field line. That enabled Grogan to reach third. Things were just getting started for Wahconah.
Grunow hit a fly ball the other way to right. A stiff wind, going left-to-right, blew the ball over the head of right fielder Hannah Flink for a run-scoring triple. Pinch runner Baileigh MacHaffie scored on Lavinio's single.
King hit a 1-1 pitch from Samantha Manitsas to right, sending Lavinio to third. Manitsas struck out Bridget Lussier on a 3-2 pitch and got the next hitter, Chloe Warren, down 1-2. The Wahconah freshman pulled the next pitch down the left-field line for a two-run double, which made it 5-0.
"Obviously that hurt. It kind of took us off our game," Belchertown coach Matt Stenuis said. "All credit goes out to the girls from Wahconah.
"That team is probably the best hitting team we've seen all year and that pitcher threw a great game."
From that point, the game really belonged to Grunow. The senior right-hander had no 1-2-3 innings, but she did register an impressive 74-pitch outing.
"For me, [the key] was hitting my spots, because the game before, I wasn't doing that," said Grunow. "Going in confident today and being able to do that was my whole goal."
It didn't hurt that Grunow was staked to a five-run lead right out of the gate. The Warrior hitters gave her five additional runs to play with in the fifth.
"It boosted my confidence a lot. After that point, I knew that we could keep getting the runs," she said.
The Warriors got help up and down the order. Rachel Brennan, the No. 8 hitter, was 2 for 3 with 3 runs batted in, while Warren was 2 for 2 with two RBI and two runs scored while Lavinio was 2 for 4 with two runs scored.
"We've been waiting for this for a while. In the regular season, we hit the ball very well. We kind of went dry in the tournament," said Belcher. "This is the best we've hit the ball in the whole tournament. It's a good time to turn it on."
Wahconah 500 050 0--10 13 3
B'town 000 000 0--0 6 1
Becca Grunow and Bree Herforth; Samantha Manitsas and Kyla Madden. W -- Grunow. L -- Manitsas. 2B -- Wahconah 2 (Gabby Lavinio, Chloe Warren). 3B -- Wahconah 1 (Grunow).
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.