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Sam Tillona shines for Frontier in relief

  • Smith Academy sophomore catcher Austin Rogers, right, ends the eighth inning with a tag at home on Frontier Regional runner Rylan Baronas, who tried to score on a sacrifice fly by Brandon Bryant to break a 7-7 tie. The Div. 3 WMass championship game went ten innings before a score by the Red Hawks to win 8-7 at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Smith Academy sophomore catcher Austin Rogers, right, ends the eighth inning with a tag at home on Frontier Regional runner Rylan Baronas, who tried to score on a sacrifice fly by Brandon Bryant to break a 7-7 tie. The Div. 3 WMass championship game went ten innings before a score by the Red Hawks to win 8-7 at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frontier Regional senior pitcher Samuel Tillona took the mound against Smith Academy in the fifth inning of the Div. 3 WMass championship at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Frontier Regional senior pitcher Samuel Tillona took the mound against Smith Academy in the fifth inning of the Div. 3 WMass championship at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frontier Regional senior outfielders Matthew Byrne, top left, and Jared Allis leap high into the air to celebrate with their Red Hawk teammates after Byrne hit a sacrifice fly to score the winning run in their Div. 3 WMass championship game against Smith Academy at UMass Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Frontier Regional senior outfielders Matthew Byrne, top left, and Jared Allis leap high into the air to celebrate with their Red Hawk teammates after Byrne hit a sacrifice fly to score the winning run in their Div. 3 WMass championship game against Smith Academy at UMass Earl Lorden Field Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frontier Regional seniors Ryan Hoar, left, Peter Watroba and Rylan Baronas hoist the Div. 3 WMass Championship trophy following their 8-7 win over Smith Academy in extra innings at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Frontier Regional seniors Ryan Hoar, left, Peter Watroba and Rylan Baronas hoist the Div. 3 WMass Championship trophy following their 8-7 win over Smith Academy in extra innings at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith Academy sophomore shortstop Christian Smiarowski , second from left, wasn't quite quick enough to complete a double play on first base runner Jared Allis of Frontier Regional after forcing out Edward Tsai, left, in the seventh inning of their Div. 3 WMass championship game at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Smith Academy sophomore shortstop Christian Smiarowski , second from left, wasn't quite quick enough to complete a double play on first base runner Jared Allis of Frontier Regional after forcing out Edward Tsai, left, in the seventh inning of their Div. 3 WMass championship game at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith Academy sophomore catcher Austin Rogers, right, leaves the field as the Frontier Regional Red Hawks and coach Charles Holt, left (16) celebrate their 8-7 win in the Div. 3 WMass championship game played at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Smith Academy sophomore catcher Austin Rogers, right, leaves the field as the Frontier Regional Red Hawks and coach Charles Holt, left (16) celebrate their 8-7 win in the Div. 3 WMass championship game played at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frontier Regional junior Niko Ames, center, tosses his bat down after striking out in the the bottom of the seventh inning, leaving the bases loaded and the WMass Div. 3 championship against Smith Academy tied 7-7 in regulation. The Red Hawks eventually scored in the tenth inning to win 8-7 at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Frontier Regional junior Niko Ames, center, tosses his bat down after striking out in the the bottom of the seventh inning, leaving the bases loaded and the WMass Div. 3 championship against Smith Academy tied 7-7 in regulation. The Red Hawks eventually scored in the tenth inning to win 8-7 at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith Academy sophomore shortstop Christian Smiarowski misses a grounder by Matthew Byrne of Frontier Regional in the seventh inning of the Div. 3 WMass championship at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Smith Academy sophomore shortstop Christian Smiarowski misses a grounder by Matthew Byrne of Frontier Regional in the seventh inning of the Div. 3 WMass championship at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Frontier Regional Red Hawks defeated Smith Academy 8-7 in extra innings to win the Div. 3 WMass championship at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    The Frontier Regional Red Hawks defeated Smith Academy 8-7 in extra innings to win the Div. 3 WMass championship at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith Academy sophomore Christian Smiarowski, right, celebrates a run by Michael Malloy (19) who scored from third on a hit by Keith Natale in the fifth inning of their Div. 3 WMass championship game against Frontier Regional at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday. It was the third score in a five-run inning for the Falcons, who had been down 7-2, and prompted the Red Hawks to replace their pitcher. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Smith Academy sophomore Christian Smiarowski, right, celebrates a run by Michael Malloy (19) who scored from third on a hit by Keith Natale in the fifth inning of their Div. 3 WMass championship game against Frontier Regional at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday. It was the third score in a five-run inning for the Falcons, who had been down 7-2, and prompted the Red Hawks to replace their pitcher.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frontier Regional senior outfielders Matthew Byrne, top left, and Jared Allis leap high into the air to celebrate with their Red Hawk teammates after Byrne hit a sacrifice fly to score the winning run in their Div. 3 WMass championship game against Smith Academy at UMass Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Frontier Regional senior outfielders Matthew Byrne, top left, and Jared Allis leap high into the air to celebrate with their Red Hawk teammates after Byrne hit a sacrifice fly to score the winning run in their Div. 3 WMass championship game against Smith Academy at UMass Earl Lorden Field Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith Academy sophomore catcher Austin Rogers, right, ends the eighth inning with a tag at home on Frontier Regional runner Rylan Baronas, who tried to score on a sacrifice fly by Brandon Bryant to break a 7-7 tie. The Div. 3 WMass championship game went ten innings before a score by the Red Hawks to win 8-7 at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Frontier Regional senior pitcher Samuel Tillona took the mound against Smith Academy in the fifth inning of the Div. 3 WMass championship at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Frontier Regional senior outfielders Matthew Byrne, top left, and Jared Allis leap high into the air to celebrate with their Red Hawk teammates after Byrne hit a sacrifice fly to score the winning run in their Div. 3 WMass championship game against Smith Academy at UMass Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Frontier Regional seniors Ryan Hoar, left, Peter Watroba and Rylan Baronas hoist the Div. 3 WMass Championship trophy following their 8-7 win over Smith Academy in extra innings at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Smith Academy sophomore shortstop Christian Smiarowski , second from left, wasn't quite quick enough to complete a double play on first base runner Jared Allis of Frontier Regional after forcing out Edward Tsai, left, in the seventh inning of their Div. 3 WMass championship game at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Smith Academy sophomore catcher Austin Rogers, right, leaves the field as the Frontier Regional Red Hawks and coach Charles Holt, left (16) celebrate their 8-7 win in the Div. 3 WMass championship game played at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Frontier Regional junior Niko Ames, center, tosses his bat down after striking out in the the bottom of the seventh inning, leaving the bases loaded and the WMass Div. 3 championship against Smith Academy tied 7-7 in regulation. The Red Hawks eventually scored in the tenth inning to win 8-7 at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Smith Academy sophomore shortstop Christian Smiarowski misses a grounder by Matthew Byrne of Frontier Regional in the seventh inning of the Div. 3 WMass championship at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • The Frontier Regional Red Hawks defeated Smith Academy 8-7 in extra innings to win the Div. 3 WMass championship at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Smith Academy sophomore Christian Smiarowski, right, celebrates a run by Michael Malloy (19) who scored from third on a hit by Keith Natale in the fifth inning of their Div. 3 WMass championship game against Frontier Regional at the University of Massachusetts Earl Lorden Field Sunday. It was the third score in a five-run inning for the Falcons, who had been down 7-2, and prompted the Red Hawks to replace their pitcher. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Frontier Regional senior outfielders Matthew Byrne, top left, and Jared Allis leap high into the air to celebrate with their Red Hawk teammates after Byrne hit a sacrifice fly to score the winning run in their Div. 3 WMass championship game against Smith Academy at UMass Earl Lorden Field Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

But in the biggest spot of his career Sunday, Tillona showed off his health and dynamic stuff in a key relief performance that led to Frontier Regional’s 8-7 10-inning win over Smith Academy in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament title game.

The Red Hawks left-hander held the Falcons without a hit in 52∕3 innings of work. He allowed only a hit batter, a walk and a base on error in that span.

Entering with two on and one out in the fifth, Tillona allowed one inherited runner to score and gave up a run of his own, but had two of his seven strikeouts to escape with the game tied 7-7.

“I came in without much time to warm up, but I tried to concentrate the best I could,” Tillona said. “I hit the first batter, but I composed myself and found a rhythm. They were a little late on my fastball and my two-seamer was working. I also hit the corners.”

In the ninth, Keith Natale reached second on a two-base error with one out, but Christian Smiarowski struck out and Austin Rogers popped out in foul territory to third baseman Rylan Baronas.

“I knew he was ready to go, and the last few times we went to him he pitched great,” Frontier coach Chuck Holt said. “He had to battle early in the outing, but from that point on he just cruised.”

A starter most of his career, Tillona made three starts in 2013, beginning with his season debut on May 10 against Greenfield. He’s thrown 192∕3 innings, with his 52∕3 on Sunday coming one out short of equaling his longest outing.

His new adapted role began in last Monday’s quarterfinal win over Granby, when Tillona struck out the side in the seventh to pick up a save.

That experience instilled Tillona with a ton of confidence going into Sunday’s title game.

“I felt great coming into this game,” Tillona said. “I knew I would be first in relief, so I was prepared for that situation.”

HOLT DELIVERS IN DEBUT — In his first season coaching at the high school level, Holt guided the Red Hawks back to their championship perch.

In the program’s seventh final appearance in 11 years, Frontier claimed its first sectional title since 2008.

“It’s a pleasure to coach this group,” Holt said. “Very few first-year coaches have a chance to coach a tournament-seasoned team, not to mention one of this caliber. The surprising part to me is the contributions of the younger players who’ve filled out the roster and made us a complete team.”

Holt gave much credit to his predecessor, Aaron Campbell, as well as the Frontier community.

“Aaron is a great baseball man and a great coach,” Holt said. “He didn’t just coach this team, he built a great program under a solid philosophy. Although we’re similar in some ways and dissimilar in others, I was able to step right in because of what he left.”

Both Holt and his players spoke of a natural adjustment period with a new coach.

“Chuck’s a great guy and a real competitor,” Tillona said. “He takes that fire and brings it to the field every day. We’ve had some rough patches this year, as any team does, but he’s been great for us.”

Holt said, “There was a ‘getting to know you’ period, but they’re all such great kids that it wasn’t a big deal. With our team leadership, it was easy to get their attention and focus.”

FALCONS GO DEEP IN TOURNEY — Smith Academy only played two baseball games over the past five days, but in terms of innings the Falcons managed to squeeze in a third one.

Their 6-4 semifinal win over top-seeded Monson on Wednesday lasted 11 innings, while Sunday’s final went 10 frames. Combined, Smith played 21 innings, the equivalent of three high school contests.

But Smith didn’t need to go to extras to provide playoff drama. The Falcons earned a walkoff 5-4 first round win over Sabis before a tight 3-2 victory over league rival St. Mary in the quarters.

“I think the fact our guys are young helped them,” coach Jeff Pluta said. “These guys have real fight. We didn’t have many games during the season with meaningful at-bats, but we certainly did in the last few games. Our guys definitely were up to the task this entire tournament.”

SMITH’S SENSATIONAL SEASONS — The Smith Academy boys athletic program completed a remarkably successful school year with its appearance in the baseball final on Sunday.

In the fall, the Falcons soccer team reached the Western Massachusetts Division 3 title game, while in the winter the basketball team won the sectional crown and played in the state Division 3 championship game.

Junior Keith Natale is the lone athlete to play on all three squads, but a number of others were on two.

THESE BIRDS RETURN NEXT SPRING — The loss on Sunday marked the final high school game for Smith Academy third baseman Mike Molloy, who’s the lone senior on the 15-man squad.

David Longstreeth will return as a junior after already establishing himself as one of the top pitchers in the area. Natale will once again anchor the lineup as a senior.

“We’re going to miss Mike as a player and a leader, but we’re bringing 14 guys back, so we’re not going anywhere,” Pluta said. “Our program’s here to stay.”

Related

Frontier baseball outlasts Smith in WMass Division 3 title game

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

AMHERST — Niko Ames gained some personal redemption Sunday afternoon and in the process helped his Frontier Regional baseball team regain the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament title. After leaving the bases loaded in the seventh inning, the junior doubled to lead off the bottom of the 10th and scored the winning run as the Red Hawks defeated Smith Academy …

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