Amherst Regional baseball No. 3 seed in Division 1 tourney
Asher Young of Amherst pitches to Agawam Friday in Amherst. JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »
Once again the Amherst Regional baseball team enters the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament with one of the strongest pitching combinations.
With how the seeding played out on Tuesday afternoon, coach Greg Vouros can now use it to his advantage.
The Hurricanes (14-6) were awarded the No. 3 seed and the last of three first-round byes in a 13-team field.
“I think the bye can be very important, because it allows you to throw your best pitcher at home in the quarters,” Vouros said. “Once you get to the semifinals at a neutral site, anything can happen at that point anyway. But the first goal once the tournament starts is to get to the semis.”
The Hurricanes boast one of the top ace pitchers in senior Asher Young, who won five games with a 0.75 ERA. Vouros’ No. 2, junior Alec Snyder-Fair (1.40 ERA), also earned five victories.
“Asher’s been well-rested his entire career, so if we need him in a spot on short rest, I think he could do it,” Vouros said. “And Alec has been tremendous this season. He’s not overpowering, but he’s crafty, smart and a real gamer out there.”
Neither Young nor Snyder-Fair has made a postseason start.
Amherst faces the winner of Thursday night’s first-round game between No. 6 Chicopee (12-8) and No. 11 Minnechaug (10-10) in a Monday quarterfinal. It’s likely to be a 7 p.m. start at Ziomek Field.
“Both are very good teams,” Vouros said. “Chicopee beat us in a rain-shortened game, and Minnechaug is always one of the best-coached teams in the area, which is a big reason they always play their best at the right time.”
The offense is led by Jamie Carey, who hit .423 with a team-best 27 RBIs. Brother Justin Carey hit .306 and topped the team with 24 runs scored.
Ty Peake and Asher Young will also be relied upon for run production.
“We’ve been a bit inconsistent hitting the ball, but we have a lot of solid hitters,” Vouros said. “If we could ever put it together all at once, our team’s as good as anyone.”
Amherst performed well against the only two higher-seeded teams. The ’Canes split a pair of one-run games with top-seeded Agawam (15-5) and defeated No. 2 East Longmeadow (17-3) in extra innings.
“All the coaches are aware of how wide open this tournament could be this year,” Vouros said. “There always seems to be some early upsets, and it’s an evenly balanced field.”
Northampton (10-10) punched its postseason ticket on Monday with a win at Ludlow and was given the No. 12 seed. The Blue Devils have a road date in Springfield with No. 5 Central (12-8) on Thursday at 4 p.m.
Hamp brings a potent lineup into the tournament, led by senior Zack Goodwin-Boyd, but lacks experience on the mound.
Despite combining for just 10 victories, having the top strength of schedule rankings propelled South Hadley and Belchertown to the No. 4 and No. 6 seeds, respectively.
The Tigers (6-14) are the defending state champions after a 7-13 regular season in 2012. They’re enter the postseason having won four of five games.
“When we play schools that are of similar size to us, we usually perform really well,” coach Matt Foley said. “So hopefully that continues this year.”
No. 5 Greenfield (16-4) will be their quarterfinal opponent Monday in South Hadley.
“We had many guys who graduated from last year’s team, so these guys this year are eager to forge their own identity,” Foley said. “And the playoffs is when you do that. But there are really good teams out there.”
Even though they played just four games against Division 2 competition, the No. 6 Orioles (4-16) will see a familiar opponent in the first round at 2 p.m. Thursday as they host No. 11 Athol (10-10).
Belchertown needed extra innings to win 17-11 at Athol for its first victory of the season. Three of its four wins came against D2 opponents.
No. 10 Hampshire Regional (9-9) must travel to No. 7 Drury (9-9) for a first-round matchup Thursday at 7 p.m.
A 16-team field in Division 3 means every tournament team will play a first-round game on Thursday, and the eventual champion must win four games.
“I’m excited that we’re playing Thursday, and our pitchers are all lined up for the tournament,” Frontier Regional coach Chuck Holt said. “I was hoping for some more rest, but we’re excited to get right into it.”
The Hampshire League runner-up Red Hawks (14-6) earned the No. 3 seed and will host No. 14 Putnam (12-8) Thursday at 4 p.m. in South Deerfield.
“I didn’t really know what to expect (for a seed), because I’m just now learning the leagues and the different programs,” said Holt, a first-year high school coach. “But No. 3 was what we were hoping for and what we probably deserved.”
The Red Hawks boast one of the top pitchers in the region in ace Peter Watroba, who didn’t allow an earned run until May 13 against Hopkins. Lefty Sam Tillona and righty Ben Ruddock offer Holt options.
Frontier boasts a deep lineup, anchored by the 3-4 combination of second baseman Rylan Baronas and shortstop Ryan Hoar. Those two also form the middle infield of a solid defensive team.
Other local first-round matchups Thursday include No. 5 Smith Academy (17-3) hosting No. 12 Sabis (14-6) at 4 p.m., No. 10 Gateway Regional (10-10) traveling to No. 7 Easthampton (10-8) at 4 p.m., and No. 11 Granby (14-6) at No. 6 Turners Falls (14-6) at 2 p.m.
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at email@example.com.