Div. 5 softball: Magical Frontier ride continues in quarterfinal win over Franklin Tech (PHOTOS)

  • Frontier's Hailey Hutkoski, left, and Skyler Steele celebrate after Hutkoski made the final out of the game on a catch in foul territory during the visiting Redhawks’ 7-1 win in the MIAA Div. 5 quarterfinals on Friday at Nancy Gifford Field in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Frontier's Delaney Fifield hits a sacrifice fly that scored a run in the first inning against Franklin Tech during the visiting Redhawks’ 7-1 win in the MIAA Div. 5 quarterfinals on Friday at Nancy Gifford Field in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/Paul Franz

  • Frontier's Ashley Taylor pitches against Franklin Tech during the visiting Redhawks’ 7-1 win in the MIAA Div. 5 quarterfinals on Friday at Nancy Gifford Field in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/Paul Franz

  • Frontier's Makayla Santos celebrates a base hit with her coach vs Franklin County Technical School at Nancy Gifford Field in Montague Friday. STAFF PHOTO/Paul Franz

  • Frontier pitcher Ashley Taylor tries to flip an infield grounder to first base hit by Franklin Tech’s Kaitlin Trudeau during the visiting Redhawks’ 7-1 win in the MIAA Div. 5 quarterfinals on Friday at Nancy Gifford Field in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/Paul Franz

  • Frontier celebrates after beating Franklin Tech 7-1 in the MIAA Div. 5 quarterfinal round on Friday in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2022 8:55:29 PM
Modified: 6/10/2022 8:53:22 PM

TURNERS FALLS – When Frontier’s Hailey Hutkoski snagged a foul ball for the final out to send the Frontier softball team to the MIAA Division 5 semifinals, Delaney ‘Lu’ Fifield could hardly believe it. 

“It feels like a fever dream. It does not feel real,” Fifield said postgame. 

But No. 21 Frontier’s fairytale run through the postseason is very much a reality, and the Redhawks proved that they are a team to watch out for yet again on Friday afternoon, holding No. 4 Franklin Tech to just a first-inning run in a 7-1 quarterfinal victory.

The Redhawks will face either No. 1 Greenfield in the Div. 5 semifinal round, and they won’t have to travel too far – the state semifinals will likely be in Western Mass. and the championship games are set for Sortino Field in UMass.

Frontier pitcher Ashley Taylor threw all seven innings for the Redhawks, allowing six hits with a rock solid defense behind her taking care of any balls that Franklin Tech managed to put in play. 

“I was able to rely on everyone behind me. (I) Never had a doubt when the ball was hit, because everyone can make the plays behind me, which is exactly what I need,” Taylor said. “So I wasn't stressed at all.”

Frontier bookended the game with a hot start and a strong finish; the Redhawks got on the board early with two runs, but really came to life in the seventh inning, where they pieced together a four-run inning that put the win firmly out of the Eagles’ reach. It was especially satisfying to beat Franklin Tech; the Eagles knocked the Redhawks out of the Western Mass. Class C quarterfinals with a 4-0 win just two weeks ago. 

“We've been slow some of these games – in the last couple, we didn't score in the first innings but we hit the ball in the first,” Frontier head coach Gary Deane said. “We got our lineup set, we got our defense set. Whatever the magic is, I don't know the recipe, but we'll just continue on.”

It really does feel like Frontier has some kind of magic this postseason. The team started the year 3-15, though the Redhawks regularly face some of the toughest competitors in the area like No. 1 Greenfield, No. 4 Franklin Tech, and No. 5 Mount Greylock. The Redhawks lost twice to both Mount Greylock and Franklin Tech during the regular season, but the third time was the charm when they faced them in the playoffs. That’ll also be the case when they see Greenfield in the state semis, but they’re a much different team than they were earlier in the year. 

“Our confidence and just our standards in general (have changed),” Fifield said. “We know that we can pick each other up and each player is like going to work.” 

The first inning got rolling with a single from Makayla Santos and then a bomb from Taylor to center field that was good for a triple, bringing Santos in to take an early 1-0 lead just two batters in. Hutkoski got a ground-rule double to drive in Taylor and give the Redhawks a 2-0 lead after the team’s first at-bat. 

The Eagles answered with their only run in the bottom of the first. Frontier picked up another run in the top of the third, but spent most of the rest of the game fending off the Eagles. It wasn’t that Franklin Tech couldn’t get on base – by game’s end, they’d stranded eight runners – but they were unable to get the ball past any fielders to bring them home.

The Redhawks cemented their victory with a monster of a seventh inning. Taylor and Fifield both singled, and Steele’s grounder to third got them both home when a throw to the plate went awry. At that point, the Eagles pulled starter Lauren Ross for Hannah Gilbert, but she only lasted a few batters; by the inning’s end, Ross was back in the circle. 


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