Big inning sends Hopkins Academy baseball past Frontier, secures league title

  • Hopkins Academy's Jack Feltovic deals on the mound against Frontier on Thursday in Hadley. Staff Photo/Thomas Johnston

  • Frontier's Tyler Baranowski tosses on the mound against Hopkins Academy on Thursday in Hadley. Staff Photo/Thomas Johnston

  • Liam Skribiski-Banack charges in to field a ball from his third base spot during a game against Hopkins Academy on Thursday in Hadley. Staff Photo/Thomas Johnston

Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2021 7:47:23 PM

HADLEY — With the Hampshire League West title on the line, a pitcher’s duel was expected between Frontier’s Tyler Baranowski and Hopkins Academy’s Jack Feltovic on Thursday.

Through three innings, that’s exactly how it was playing out.

Frontier pulled ahead early with an RBI double from Liam Skribiski-Banack in the second inning, but a big fourth inning rally from the Golden Hawks — which had just two hits through three innings — proved to be the difference in Thursday’s contest.

Hopkins managed six hits and eight base runners in the bottom of the fourth, putting five runs on the board to take a 5-1 lead. That cushion proved to be more than enough with Feltovic dealing on the mound, as the Golden Hawks sewed up the HL West title with a 5-2 victory.

Hopkins closed out its regular season with a 9-1 record in the league while Frontier finished one game back at 8-2 (10-2 overall).

The two teams were separated by just one run the first time they squared off last month, with the Redhawks pulling out a 4-3 victory.

“Baranowski pitched a gem against us last time,” Hopkins coach Dan Vreeland said. “He pitched well this time but my guys got on him in that one inning and stuff snowballed. He looked great but my guys have been swinging all year and got hot at the right time.”

Feltovic ended up going 6 2/3 on the mound, striking out 11 batters and giving up just five hits to pick up the victory. He gave up just one hit after the Hawks’ offensive explosion in the fourth.

“Feltovic is a good athlete,” Redhawks coach Chris Williams said. “He knows what he’s doing on the hill and has lots of command. We know we’re going to face pitchers like that if we’re going to make a run in the tournament. It was good experience and more motivation to work hard this coming week so we can get back and work toward our season goals.”

Feltovic himself got the rally going in the fourth inning with a double, followed by a Patrick Fitzgibbons RBI double. Jake Smith then brought Fitzgibbons home to put Hopkins ahead, 2-1.

Singles from Liam Flynn and Chris Mushenski gave the Golden Hawks five consecutive hits to start the inning, loading the bases in the process. Cody West scored Smith with a single and a walk from Kouji Ishida brought Flynn home.

Sam Schreiber came on to replace Baranowski on the mound, and a walk to Feltovic with the bases loaded forced home Mushenski to put Hopkins up, 5-1. Schreiber worked his way out of the jam with no more damage done.

“I kept telling them not to change their approach before that big inning,” Vreeland said. “We were hitting balls really hard beforehand. I didn’t want them to start trying to hit the deep fly ball because Frontier makes every play on defense. This is a team that makes so many great plays so I just wanted my guys to keep their approach, keep hitting them on a line and they’ll start to fall. Luckily this time they did.”

Frontier got a run back in the top of the fifth, as Kevin Baumann drove in Kyle Barnes with a single, but that would be the final hit Feltovic surrendered in the contest.

Andrew Ciaglo came on for Hopkins to get the final out of the game and seal the league title.

“It feels phenomenal and I’m thrilled for these seniors who lost their season a year ago,” Vreeland said. “To hang another banner feels phenomenal. I love playing teams like Frontier and South Hadley toward the end of the year. That’s how you get better. We play in a D4 tournament and (Frontier) will be a front-runner in D3. They’re one of the best teams out there so it’s great timing. Everything seems to be clicking for us but we know the tournament is a whole other animal.”

Despite the loss, the Redhawks are focused on making a run in the Western Mass Div. 3 tourney.

“Our initial goal at the start of the year was to take care of the Hampshire West,” Williams said. “We put ourselves in as good a spot as we could have been in order to win it. Today just wasn’t our day. As I was just telling the guys we got to experience a game against top quality competition heading into the postseason. That’s a good look for us if we’re going to capitalize on our opportunities going forward.”

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