Wahconah softball hangs on to win on road at Mount Everett
SHEFFIELD — Thursday's showdown between Mount Everett and Wahconah featured two teams coming off deep runs in their respective 2018 Western Massachusetts Tournaments. In a bout featuring two heavyweight contenders looking to make another deep dive into the tournament, one inning — or out — could be the difference.
After Everett's Megan Smith cracked a double in the bottom of the fourth inning the Eagles, looking to blow the game open, had runners on second and third with no one out. That's when Wahconah's Dustin Belcher made a trip to the mound to let his squad know they had what it takes to escape the threat. Not only did the Warriors escape the inning, they got out of Sheffield with a 9-5 win.
"[Coach Belcher] just told us that we were in control and needed to stay calm," pitcher Abby Wells said. "I knew that my teammates were ready to go behind me and I trusted them so I was able to just go out and do my job."
With the Warriors up 4-2, the Eagles were threatening with the tying run at second. That's when Wells, who didn't have a single strike out before this point, locked in and struck out seven of the next 12 she faced. With Wells silencing the Eagles (2-3) bats, the Warriors (3-0) implemented small ball and aggressive base running to score five runs over the final three innings.
"Coach said that being aggressive is part of the Warrior way," second basemen Rachel Kays, who scored three runs, said. "It's kind of in our DNA. We practice small ball and IQ stuff a lot and communication is a big factor. Small ball is a big part of the game because it puts pressure on the defense."
The bottom part of the Wahconah lineup played a large role in manufacturing runs. Julia Trager went 3 for 4 and had three runs batted in out of the eighth spot, while Bailey Shippee went 2 for 4 as the seventh hitter and Tori Partridge reached base three times out of the No. 9 spot.
"The bottom of our lineup did a great job of turning over the lineup a few times," Belcher said. "They ran the bases well so I am really happy. I am really proud of the toughness showed by this group today."
While the Warriors gained some breathing room against the Eagles late in the game, the two sides went blow-for-blow in the early rounds.
After Kays knocked in Wells with a first-inning single, Mount Everett had an answer in the form of a Madison Ullrich single that scored Marion Devoti.
With the help of Trager's double and a single by Shippee, the Warriors produced a 3-run third inning.
Devoti's big bat answered in the bottom half, though, with a solo shot over the fence in left. The Eagles clawed out another run in the fourth, but left four runners stranded on base in that time, trailing 4-3.
"I thought by far this was our best game because we stayed the course," Belcher said. "We weren't perfect by any means, but every time we made a mistake we had the right response for it."
Wahconah took the field in the bottom of the seventh with a six-run lead, however, the Eagles again showed they weren't ready to go away quietly.
After Gwendolyn Carpenter reached on a fielder's choice, Madison Ullrich, who had three runs batted in, crushed a ball that refused to land until it was over the left field fence, cutting the lead to 9-5.
"They're a very good team", Wells said. "I know they're going to hit it, but you just have to do your job as a pitcher and work around the big hits."
With that in mind, the Eagles ran out of time as Wells got the next two batters out to end the threat.
"Even after a two-run home run Wells came back with the right attitude," Belcher said. "It's so early in the year, just letting her know she has the stuff to get us out of it and stay with the game plan [is important]. The same goes for giving the defense the confidence to make the plays."
The confidence is building for a Wahconah bunch that has won three-straight games out of the gates and outscored opponents 31-7 in that time.
"The big key is confidence," Wells explained. "I can trust myself and trust my team."
The Warriors will look to keep rolling on Saturday as they host Mount Anthony (Vt.) with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.
Mount Everett returns to action on Tuesday with a Berkshire South showdown against Monument Mountain.
Wahconah 103 020 3 — 9 13 1
Everett 101 100 2 — 5 7 3
Abby Wells and Jess Duma. Faith Angell and Madison Ullrich. WP — Wells. LP — Angell. 2B — W 1 (Julia Trager); ME 2 (Marion Devoti, Megan Smith). HR — ME 2 (Mad. Ullrich and Devoti)
Jake Mendel can be reached at Jmendel@berkshireeagle.com, @Jmendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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