Gazette Softball Player of the Year: Hampshire Regional’s Savannah Waters
Hampshire Regional's Savannah Waters takes a swing against Southwick during their Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal game at UMass' Sortino Field, Tuesday. Hampshire won 3-0. Purchase photo reprints »
Hampshire Regional junior Savannah Waters, left, slides by Frontier Regional junior Amanda Robinson to steal second base in the third inning of the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament championship Saturday at Sortino Field. Waters was then in a position to score on a single by senior Anna Dziok for the Raiders' only run in regulation. Hampshire won in ten innings, 2-1. Purchase photo reprints »
Savannah Waters, of Hampshire Regional, throws to first to complete a double play on a hit from Erin Reed-Coates, of Belchertown, Monday in Belchertown. Purchase photo reprints »
Hampshire Regional sophomore second baseman Chelsea Moussette, riding the shoulders of junior shortstop Savannah Waters, carries the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament championship trophy off Sortino Field at the University of Massachusetts after the Raiders beat Frontier Regional, 2-1, in extra innings Saturday. Purchase photo reprints »
Hampshire Regional pitcher Alexis Ferris delivers to Southwick during their Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal game at UMass' Sortino Field, Tuesday. Hampshire won 3-0. Purchase photo reprints »
Jazzy Moonstone, of Amherst Regional, bats against Northampton Thursday in Amherst. Purchase photo reprints »
Caelin Mottor, of Easthampton, pitches to Smith Academy Friday in Easthampton. First baseman Kate Avard is in the background. Easthampton won 14-0. Purchase photo reprints »
Tea Spellacy, of Belchertown, hits a single against Hampshire Regional Monday in Belchertown. Purchase photo reprints »
Savannah Waters and the Hampshire Regional softball team had many goals going into the season, but there was one thing that would help accomplish all of them — getting on base.
As the leadoff hitter, that’s all the junior wanted to do.
Waters powered the team and finished the season with .463 batting average, 37 hits, 33 runs scored, 15 RBIs and 14 walks. Three of those hits came against Frontier Regional in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship, which the Raiders won, 2-1, in 10 innings.
At shortstop, Waters was a defensive threat, with a wide fielding range for whatever came her way. For her efforts, Waters has been named the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Player of the Year.
“We’ve had her in the leadoff spot the last two years and she’s the one that makes the team just run. If she gets on base, we usually do pretty well,” Raiders coach Brian McGan said. “For the most part my feeling, every time when she gets on, she’s going to score. It helps the team feel that much more (confident).”
Waters entered the season two hits away from 100. She hit the milestone during an 11-0 win over East Longmeadow to open the season.
“It means a lot to me,” she said. “Getting it as a junior and not even a senior, is just something I’m really proud of and worked hard for.”
Her hard work didn’t end there. To combat a slump at the end of her sophomore season, and knowing the team was changing leagues, Waters spent the offseason in the weight room. She came back with more strength and power in her swing and, to McGan’s surprise, raised her batting average despite facing primarily Division 1 pitchers in the Suburban league.
“I gained a lot of muscle after last season. I was working a lot on my core, and my arms and legs,” she said. “I definitely noticed the first day of the season. ... I’ve always been kind of a line drive, ground ball, gap hitter. This year, I kind of brought that up to a whole new level and started to get some new power and got big hits that we needed.”
Waters was held hitless once all season, in an 8-0 win over Chicopee, and had 11 multi-hit games.
Despite powering Hampshire’s postseason run with five hits, two runs scored, an RBI and a walk in three games, Waters’ biggest game is arguably a 4-for-4 performance against Chicopee Comp on May 15. She opened with a leadoff triple, doubled in the second, homered in the fourth and finished the cycle with a fifth-inning single.
“It was really strange because I don’t usually hit home runs,” Water said. “It just kind of happened. ... I knew that would be my last at-bat and I’d been hitting pretty well the whole game so I didn’t want to chance it. I laid down the bunt and got the easy single.”
It wasn’t just a big moment for Waters, but her four hits, three runs and three RBIs helped teammate Alexis Ferris close out a perfect game.
“It felt good,” Waters said. “It made it even better that we both hit milestones like that together in the same game. It was pretty cool to be able to experience that with a teammate.”
As much as Waters contributed to the offense, she put the same effort into defense turning stellar plays into routine outs in the middle of the infield.
“An outstanding play, for me, is pretty routine in my head, where most people think, ‘that’s a great play,’ I expect her to do those things,” McGan said. “This year, she’s been pretty solid.”
In the Western Mass. semifinal against Southwick, she got a key out in the second inning to erase a leadoff single. Waters made a diving catch past second base on an errant pickoff attempt and had to cut back to apply the tag on Katelyn Sylvia to prevent the steal.
“That’s a great play. It’s hard for me to say that because I watch her make those plays everyday,” McGan said.
Waters said she rarely thought twice before making a play as playing shortstop has become second nature.
“When the ball is coming at me and it’s the kind of play like (the diving play), there really is nothing going on in my head,” she said. “It’s really just kinda happens. I’m lucky that it happens. It’s kind of just instinct. ... If there is a close hit that I could dive on and I don’t, it’s because it just didn’t happen then. I trust myself on that. If I was capable of getting it, I would have done it.”
The Raiders will have one more year with Waters at the plate and playing up the middle as they look to defend their Suburban League and Western Massachusetts titles.
“I’m glad she’s back and I can’t wait to watch her play one more year,” McGan said.
Sarah Moomaw can be reached at email@example.com.
Emilie Baldwin, senior, Northampton
Cassidy Ciesluk, junior, Frontier Regional
Erinne Dull, senior, Blechertown
Alexis Ferris, sophomore, Hampshire Regional
Haley McFarland, junior, Easthampton
Jazzy Moonstone, junior Amherst Regional
Caelin Mottor, senior, Easthampton
Chelsea Moussette, sophomore, Hampshire Regional
Sydney Slattery, sophomore, Easthampton
Téa Spellacy, junior, Belchertown
Nadia Squitiero, junior, Amherst Regional
Gwen Thayer, senior, Frontier Regional
Savannah Waters, junior, Hampshire Regional
Mackenzie Yelle, junior , Belchertown
Hannah Adams, sophomore, Frontier Regional
Airelle Baillargeon, senior, Gateway Regional
Jera Barrett, senior, Hopkins Academy
Abi Beauregard, freshman, Granby
Avalon Darby, freshman, Smith Vocational
Gabby Downer, sophomore, Easthampton
Anna Dziok, senior, Hampshire Regional
Hannah Flink, junior, Belchertown
Jackie Gomez, junior, Easthampton
Lauren Grondin, senior, Smith Academy
Maddi Kelleher, senior, South Hadley
Maya Kerstetter, senior, Northampton
Merry Kocot, senior, South Hadley
Cassie Long, senior, Amherst Regional
Brooke Pashek, sophomore, Smith Academy
McKayla Poissant, senior, Frontier Regional
Erin Reed-Coates, junior, Belchertown
Rachel Sheehan, junior, Northampton
Samantha Von Haugg, freshman, Smith Vocational
Bri Weltlich, senior, Hampshire Regional
Becca Carkhuff, senior, Amherst Regional
Jordan Cooper, junior, Gateway Regional
Sammy Dame, junior, Gateway Regional
Delaney Duprat, senior, South Hadley
Ally Hamelin, junior, Frontier Regional
Krista Jasak, sophomore, Holyoke Catholic
Jaysona Kennedy, senior, Granby
Allie Kowalczyk, freshman, Smith Vocational
Savannah Ring, senior, Hopkins Academy
Miranda Wendolowski, senior, Smith Academy