Click for live coverage of Wednesday's high school baseball, softball tournament games
The Frontier Regional baseball team and coach Charles Holt (16) celebrate their 8-7 win in the WMass Division 3 Tournament championship game at UMass on Sunday. Smith Academy sophomore catcher Austin Rogers, right, leaves the field. KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »
History already repeated itself for the Frontier Regional baseball program in Sunday’s Western Massachusetts Division 3 championship game. The Red Hawks hope the same occurs in the state Division 3 semifinal Tuesday.
Frontier outlasted Smith Academy 8-7 in 10 innings at Lorden Field on Sunday for its first sectional title since 2008, when it also defeated the Falcons 15-6.
That 2008 Red Hawks squad advanced to the state final by beating Hopedale 9-5. The Blue Raiders are again their opponent in the semifinals.
“The goal all year was to get to this point, especially after falling short (in the western Mass. final) last season,” junior Niko Ames said. “We have a lot of seniors who really drove us this season.”Tweets from @GazetteNow/live-hs-sports-coverage
The Frontier program is certainly no stranger to the state tournament. However, this particular squad brings no prior experience this deep in the postseason.
“The guys were very happy and there was a lot of celebrating on the bus ride home,” Frontier coach Chuck Holt said. “But in practice (Monday) it was almost like the beginnning of the season. So there’s no sense of contentment for these guys.”
Worcester’s Tivnan Field is the site for Tuesday’s 4 p.m. first pitch. Central Massachusetts champion Hopedale (20-3) earned the title Sunday by beating Oxford 4-1.
“It’s probably good for us to get right back into it,” Holt said. “Another day might have been ideal, but that’s fine.”
Junior right-hander Ben Ruddock will get the start for Frontier. He’s been strong thus far in the postseason with victories over Putnam (two runs allowed) in the first round and St. Joseph (one run) in the semifinals last Wednesday. For the season, he’s won five games with one save.
“Ben’s ready to go on a full five days of rest,” Holt said. “So the timing of the game is ideal in that sense. His confidence is sky-high right now. He’s not only had a full season as a junior but also two playoff games.”
Ruddock faces a lineup that boasts three hitters over .400 in Ian Strom (.528, 15 RBIs), Chris Embree (.413, 14 RBIs) and Kevin Bresciani (.408, 16 RBIs). Tyler D’Urso has a team-best 19 RBIs with a .393 average.
Hopedale ace Dan Mantoni fired a complete game on Sunday, but Strom (5-1, 1.43 ERA) and D’Urso (2-0, 2.06) are enjoying exceptional campaigns on the mound. Holt anticipates facing Strom, a left-hander, so the Red Hawks took batting practice Monday against lefty throwers.
The Blue Raiders, who last won a sectional crown in 2011, are playing with extra motivation this postseason as 24-year head coach Joe Small announced this will be his final year.
“We know they play good defense, they can small ball,” Holt said. “But they also have some very powerful hitters and are really well coached. We’ve got our hands full, but I think we’re up to the task.”
Frontier has swung some hot bats in the playoffs, scoring 27 runs over its last three games. Before Sunday’s final, Red Hawks pitching allowed fewer than three runs per postseason contest.
“We know that even though we played well enough on Sunday, that wasn’t our full potential,” senior shortstop Ryan Hoar said. “So in order to win (Tuesday) everyone needs to come out with their absolute best. We also need to stay positive even if someone has a bad at-bat or makes an error. That’s always a huge key for earning a win.”
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.