Softball Notebook: Hampshire Regional sets focus on another deep run

  • Easthampton pitcher Rosie Follet throws against Turners Falls in the bottom of the fifth inning Monday afternoon in Turners Falls. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer 
Published: 4/11/2022 9:14:00 PM
Modified: 4/11/2022 9:12:49 PM

Hampshire Regional softball coach Brian McGan knows his roster looks great on paper.

The defending Western Mass. champs have looked good on the field so far, too, with two early and dominant wins against Minnechaug and Agawam, outscoring their opponents by a combined 28-3. But McGan knows that his team is still going to have to show up each day.

“Everything looks great on paper, it all depends on what you do on the field. It's gonna be a challenging year this year with the state tournament switching gears, now you have to play a few more games,” McGan said. “We have Wachusett this year, we play Greenfield twice, so we've made a bigger challenge for our schedule. The teams that we're going to play are going to be a little tougher, so we’ve got to kind of gear down and see what happens. It's a good challenge for the kids.” 

That’s the same Greenfield team the Raiders beat 6-4 in last year’s Western Mass. final, which may give the Green Wave some extra motivation. But Hampshire is more than capable of handling any challenge thrown its way this year. The Raiders are a particularly senior-heavy squad this season, fielding six seniors who McGan expects to lean on during the season. He’ll lean on veterans like Hannah Wodecki, Bri Sulikowski and Katelyn Baker, but the emergence of younger players like junior pitcher Joss Mettey and sophomore Ashley Cortis have given the Raiders impressive depth in all three areas of the game.

“I think this year it's gonna be a little bit of everything,” said McGan said when asked what his team’s calling card would be. “With our kids, I hound defense. My biggest pet peeve is the error board on the scoreboard. So we try to keep that down as best as possible. And that'll always give you a better chance. All three phases of our game (hitting, pitching and fielding) have been pretty strong the past couple years, so we're hoping for that again this year.”

BIG SHOES TO FILL FOR EAGLES

Easthampton has been known for its pitchers’ inspiring performances for several years. But now that stud Chelsea Indyk graduated last season, the spot in the Eagles circle is up for grabs at the moment. 

The Eagles have two options for pitching in Makenna Slate and Rosie Follet, but so far head coach Corey Robinson has relied entirely on Follet. The sophomore threw her first game last year, a no-hitter against Belchertown, before coming back and starting all three games for the Eagles this season, striking out 22 batters and allowing eight runs in 19 innings of work so far this season. 

“The job's up for grabs. Whoever rises to occasion, or we'll do a split,” Robinson said. 

The rest of Easthampton’s roster is a mix of newcomers and returners. The team’s first and second basemen, Christine Raymond and Haley Routhier, didn’t have a varsity start before this season, but have stepped up admirably thus far.

Robinson has a trio of veterans who have been at the varsity level for several years in shortstop Abigail McClaflin, third baseman Lauren Morse and right-fielder Jessica Cloutier that he’ll be relying on. In general, he’s looking for a higher compete level and for the team to keep their defensive game up to the high level they expect.

FINAL FRONTIER

The Redhawks are a team that will have to learn on the fly this season. The team has just three returning starters this year, and half of them are ninth-graders. Despite their youth, Frontier head coach Garrett Deane has been impressed with his team's mental game. 

“Our team is really super young. But they surprise me all the time because mentally they are a lot stronger than their age,” Deane said. 

And it’s not just their mental game opponents should be wary of – seventh-grader Skyler Steele has already knocked in two home runs in the same game this season, possibly the youngest Frontier player to hit a home run at the age of 12; she leads her team with nine hits and 10 runs.

Only the two senior captains, Makayla Santos and Chloe Cutting, are left from the squad that made the Western Mass. final back in 2019. Despite their youth, Deane hopes that his team can make it back there this season. They may also be able to make a run in the new statewide tournament this year – Frontier will be in Division 5 this year after the realignment.

EYE OF THE TIGERS

South Hadley looks to be on the upswing this season. After collecting just two wins last season, the Tigers have started off their 2022 campaign on a two-game winning streak with a 10-3 victory over Holyoke and a whopping 25-0 win over Commerce.

South Hadley also has an opening in its pitching circle with the graduation of senior Maddie Rainaud, who threw the majority of the Tigers’ games last season. They have a couple options to choose from – sophomore Sophia Faginski allowed four hits and struck out five batters in the team’s win over Holyoke, and freshman Ella Schaeffer threw a no-hitter in their blowout against Commerce. 

HURRICANES BACK TO WINNING WAYS

Prior to this season, the last time the Amherst softball team walked off a field with a win was May 1, 2017. 

Now, the Hurricanes are back and ready to play ball. Second-year Amherst coach — and one of the best players in program history — Emma Mendoker has led her team to a 2-0 start, an 8-4 victory against Westfield Tech and a 17-0 shutout against Commerce.

It’s a young squad for Amherst – Madalyn Remensnyder is the only senior on the roster – but if they keep performing like they have, the Hurricanes could be a team to watch, not just this year but in the seasons to come.


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