AMHERST – The Frontier softball team isn’t playing like a seven seed.
After putting up 16 runs in their first-round victory over No. 10 Belchertown and knocking off second-seeded Easthampton in the quarterfinals of the Western Massachusetts Division II tournament, the Red Hawks exploded once again, advancing to the sectional finals following a 16-11 victory over No. 3 Hoosac Valley Friday afternoon.
The win puts the Red Hawks into the sectional final on June 15 against No. 1 Hampshire at 4:00 p.m. back at Sortino Field.
Trailing 3-0 in the top of the third, Frontier got the inning started with back-to-back singles from CC Greene and Olivia Vecellio. The next batter, Lily Spencer, stepped up and launched a full-count pitch from Hurricanes pitcher Maddie Puppolo over the left field fence for a game-tying three-run home run.
Spencer’s long ball was the spark the Red Hawks needed to get things going offensively, batting around in both the third and fourth innings to take a commanding 14-4 lead into the fifth. Eight players recorded a hit for Frontier, with Spencer, Deane and Ariana Walker all securing three base hits.
“We have a great offense all the way one through nine and even into our subs, we call them reinforcements,” coach Gary Deane said. “We get deep in there, they’re hitting away, hitting line drives and it just kind of caught on.”
After hitting the homer that set the tone for the rest of the game, Spencer said it was pure excitement when the final out was caught by Vecellio in right field.
“None of us thought we were ever gonna get this far,” she said. “We were all confident enough to play the season but getting this far is just unbelievable.
“It’s great to start that spark. Watching everybody else get their hits in today was just as cool, it was awesome.”
With their best hitter Charlotte Doulette unable to play due to sickness, Deane noted the importance of other players stepping up when given the chance. Greene, an eighth grader, replaced Doulette at third base and recorded a single and walk while making several defensive plays in the field.
“We only had one league all-star and she didn’t play today, so we had no league all-stars play today and they put up 16 runs against a great team and a great pitcher,” Deane said. “It’s an opportunity for other girls to come up, on our team one through nine can hit really well.”
The win was extra special for sophomore Macy Ring, who went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored.
Growing up, Ring was a bat girl for the UMass softball team under head coach Elaine Sortino alongside her best friend Allie Markowski, who plays softball for Hopkins.
Ring said she developed an extremely close relationship in which she called Sortino ‘a second mother.’
“(Sortino) supported me in every single thing I did and treated us just like we were one of her players,” Ring said. “She’d always talk about us playing here and unfortunately I switched schools and moved to Frontier, so I couldn’t play with Allie here like she wanted, but I was just really glad we got to play for her and I’m excited to come back and play for her tomorrow.”
For Ring, playing on a field named after Sortino for a chance to win a sectional title means everything.
“Yesterday I went to her grave and I kissed it and told her ‘we’re coming tomorrow, we’re gonna do it just like you always wanted,’” she said. “As soon as I came up here I saw her name I started tearing up and my teammates were telling me I could do this for her and we did it.”
Deane knows his team has a chance to continue surprising people as they appear in their first championship since 2014 to take on No. 1 Hampshire,
“I think other teams just don’t know how to scout us because it’s a different kind of kid getting three hits every game, it’s a different kid getting those four RBI games,” he said. “Olivia doesn’t strike out 10 guys, she’s tough to figure out and hit against because she changes speeds, doesn’t walk a whole lot of kids and remains ice cold calm and has nerves of steel.”