Softball: Wahconah ace takes down Easthampton

Staff Writer
Published: 4/6/2022 9:01:34 PM
Modified: 4/6/2022 9:00:57 PM

EASTHAMPTON – Though the weather was chilly and rainy on Wednesday afternoon, there was plenty of heat on the softball field between Easthampton and Wahconah.

The independent contest quickly became a pitching duel, as Wahconah’s Avery Vale-Cruz and Easthampton’s Rosie Follet went head-to-head for all seven innings.

The Eagles couldn’t get their bats going against Vale-Cruz, who finished the game with 16 strikeouts, and the visitors snagged a 6-1 victory at Nonotuck Park.

Follet finished with nine strikeouts and walked seven batters, though she allowed just four hits in only her second varsity start.

“The difference in the game was they battle up there – they were fouling ball after ball off and then they finally got a couple of hard hits,” Easthampton head coach Corey Robinson said of Wahconah. “We left two runners on third base, both with less than two outs. That should be a 6-3 game. My hat’s off to their pitcher, she threw great.”

What ultimately stood as the game-winning runs came early in the contest, on the final play of the top of the second inning. After a scoreless first inning where Vale Cruz and Follet combined for five strikeouts, Wahconah got players on base in the second via two walks and a shot into center field for a single. With the bases loaded, Taylar Hickey sent a ball soaring back toward the center field fence, driving in three runs. Though she was caught at home plate trying for a home run on the plate, Hickey’s blast put the Eagles in a 3-0 hole.

The score stayed locked at 3-0 for the next inning, but Wahconah (2-0) built on its lead in the fourth. With two runners on base, Olivia Iovieno drilled a triple that brought home a pair to make it 5-0. Follet retired the side shortly after with a strikeout and a center-field fly handled easily by Ana Growhowski.

After a scoreless fifth and another run from the Warriors in the sixth, the Eagles finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth. Growhowski dinked a ball right between the pitcher and catcher to get on first to open the frame, then stole both second and third base during Abigail McClaflin’s at-bat. Growhowski scored when McClaflin blasted a fly ball into left field and wound up on second.

It looked like the Eagles (0-1) would keep scoring after McClaflin stole third, but she was stranded there when Vale-Cruz evaded further damage.

The University of Rhode Island-commit put the exclamation point on her team’s win with three strikeouts in the seventh inning to seal the deal.

“I think that was really good for some of our younger girls to see pitching like that,” Growhowski said on facing Vale-Cruz. “We’re not gonna see it every time, but it’s good to get their mindset into what they might see when we go into states.”

Robinson said he hopes to see more competitiveness at the plate from his team as the season goes on. It’s a younger group this year for the Eagles, who don’t have any seniors on the squad and just three juniors, but there’s still experience among the underclassmen. 

“We’ve got a lot to improve on, a lot to build on,” Robinson said. “I think we play pretty well defensively, we’ve just got to compete at the plate.”


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