WESTFIELD – As the 2015 spring playoff season gets under way this week, five local teams have earned top 2 seeds, while six overall teams earned a first-round bye. It is a busy first full week of playoff action in lower Hampden County, with seven games involving local teams highlighting this week.
Westfield High School leads the way with three boys’ varsity teams in action, all as No. 2 seeds, while Southwick-Tolland has a pair of teams playing as the No. 2 seeds in their respective Western Massachusetts tournaments. St. Mary’s earned a No. 4 seed and Westfield Voc-Tech made the bracket as a No. 12 seed.
No. 2 WHS Volleyball v. No. 3 Agawam
After a nearly dominant regular season, the Bomber boys’ volleyball team (16-2, 9-1 North) earned the No. 2 seed after losing the tiebreaker to co-champion, and No. 1 seed, Chicopee Comprehensive. The top two teams all season look destined to meet in the championship, but the Bombers first have to defeat No. 3 Agawam in the tournament semifinals Wednesday night at 5 p.m.
The Bombers, who defeated No. 7 East Longmeadow Monday night in the first round by a 3-0 scoreline, swept the season series with the Brownies, but Agawam was just one of four teams all season to take at least one set from WHS. The Bombers won a close 3-2 match on the road on April 28, coming from a 2-1 set deficit to win in five. WHS took the rematch in Westfield, winning 3-1 on May 14.
Before the first matchup with Agawam, the Bombers started the year winning 27 of the first 28 sets, the only lost set coming in a 3-1 win over West Springfield. The Bombers have played well throughout most of the season, but head coach Tyler Wingate hopes the team starts better than it did against ELHS.
“Once we got settled in, it was a nice thing to see,” Wingate told The Westfield News following the win over the Spartans. “I don’t think we started off the way we wanted to. In the second set, we got our blocking going, our eyes were reading well, and we had good ball movement.”
No. 2 WHS Baseball v. No. 7 West Springfield or No. 10 Chicopee Comp
Westfield baseball’s first tournament time and date has yet to be determined, since the two possible opponents face off in West Springfield Wednesday at 4 p.m. The Bombers did not play the Colts of CCHS this season, but they did face the Terriers, who have the honor of being one of three schools to defeat WHS at Bullens Field. The 1-0 loss on May 1 was the last time that Westfield lost on their home field this season.
Despite the opponent, Westfield (14-6, 9-3) won the regular season Valley League title by a game over Minnechaug Regional and boasts quite the offensive firepower behind it. University of Hartford commit Chris Sullivan leads Division 1 in seven offensive categories, batting .576 with a .641 on-base percentage and a .939 slugging percentage. He also leads everyone with 38 hits, 11 of those being doubles and 32 of those producing runs for the Bombers.
WHS also leads the league in three pitching categories, represented in all three by Kenny McLean. The senior has thrown 56 innings this season, about seven more than the next pitcher and has 66 strikeouts, two more than Northampton’s Hunter Salem. At the season’s conclusion, the University of Albany commit also tied for the lead in wins, recording six and tying him with Minnechaug’s Nate Florence and Ludlow’s Austin Harris.
No. 2 WHS Lacrosse v. No. 10 Minnechaug
The third Westfield boys’ team to earn a No. 2 seed learned its fate late Tuesday night. WHS’ league rival Minnechaug, who topped Westboro 13-7 Tuesday in the first round of the Central-Western MA tournament, will face the Bombers on WHS’ home field Thursday at 5 p.m.
Westfield (16-2, 6-2 Valley Wheel) has already beaten Minnechaug twice in its two regular season meetings – 9-7 in Wilbraham and 15-6 in Westfield – as well as every Western MA opponent with the exception of a season sweep at the hands of Longmeadow.
The Bombers entered the tournament winning six of the eight regular season games in May, as well as their first tournament game Sunday, defeating No. 15 Chicopee Comp 17-2 on a slippery WHS field. The hosts tallied five goals in each of the first two quarters to jump on top in the first half and continued to cruise from there. Zach Gentle, Anthony Sullivan and Max Maggipinto each recorded a hat trick to lead the Bombers.
A different trio has led the offensive attack for WHS this season. Gentle (84), Sam Scarfo (99) and Matt Chlastawa (104) combined for 287 points this season, with Chlastawa and Scarfo ranking No. 3 and 4 in Western Massachusetts. The trio also holds the No. 1, 2 and 5 spots in the Valley Wheel this season.
No. 2 STRHS Baseball v. No. 7 Hampshire or No. 10 Hoosac Valley
The first of the Rams’ two No. 2 seeds will have to wait to hit the diamond until the result comes in from the first round matchup in Westhampton. For Southwick (18-2, 7-1 Bi-County South), the date of their next game may be undetermined, but the caliber of baseball they have displayed shows why they earned the No. 2 seed.
Southwick has representatives in seven offensive categories, demonstrating their balanced offensive attack. Vinnie Fortini tied for third in Division III in batting average (.500), second in on-base percentage (.495) and third in slugging percentage (.765). With such high statistics, Fortini also leads the division in hits with 34 and is second both in RBIs (22) and runs (26). Only teammate Jake Goodreau has driven in more runners this season, leading STRHS and Division III with 24.
Eddie Martinez cracked the season’s top 5 in hits to join Fortini, accumulating 26 hits, tying him with Hoosac Valley’s Matt Koperniak and Mohawk’s Stephen Reynolds. Martinez also has made his mark on the basepaths, hitting five triples on the season. The Rams’ speed has caused an issue for many teams this season, with three players cracking the top 5 list in three-baggers – Fortini is No. 1 with six, then Martinez at No. 2 and Danny McClellan tied for No. 5 with three.
The Rams have also shined on the mound, which should give them an advantage if they do face Hampshire in the quarterfinals. Against HRHS alone, STRHS has outscored the Red Raiders 10-0 in the two meetings, highlighted by a 1-0 complete game from Andrew Mitchell and a one-hit 9-0 shutout from Bob Hamel. Not surprisingly, the duo is 1-2 in the division in innings pitched, and the pair also sweep the top two spots in wins – Mitchell with eight, Hamel with six. Hamel does lead the division with 57 strikeouts, but Mitchell is No. 5 overall with 44.
No. 2 STRHS Softball v. No. 7 Belchertown
The Rams’ second diamond squad to receive a No. 2 seed earned their way in convincing fashion, sweeping the Bi-County West to finish the regular season at 18-2, 12-0 in divisional play. A steady combination of both offense and defense has led to a successful season, with the only losses coming at Division I opponent
Northampton and at home to Division III powerhouse Turners Falls.
For the visiting Orioles, they will have to deal with sophomore pitcher Emily Lachtara, who leads Division II with 18 wins and is second overall with 195 strikeouts in 104 innings pitched. Fifteen of Southwick’s 18 wins have been shutouts and opponents failed to score on Lachtara in her first 13 games of the season, and the STRHS pitching staff as a whole did not allow a run until 19-2 win over Holyoke Catholic during game eight of the regular season.
Once the Orioles hit the field, they’ll have to deal with a lineup led by Sydney Rogers, who places in the top 5 of every offensive category this season, ending the year with a .479 batting average, compounded by a .836 slugging percentage and a .548 on-base percentage. The junior leads Division II in runs scored (40) and hits (35), while driving in 24 runs and hitting six doubles, four triples and four home runs.
No. 12 WVTHS Baseball at No. 5 McCann Tech
Second-year head coach Kyle Dulude and the Westfield Voc-Tech Tigers (10-8, 10-6 Tri-County) earned their necessary 10 wins in mid-May against Smith Vocational and earned the No. 12 seed in the Division IV Western Massachusetts tournament.
The Tigers will be the only local team playing on the road for their first tournament game when they travel into the Berkshires to face league champion McCann Tech in Adams Wednesday at 4 p.m. for a chance to come back to Westfield to play No. 4 St. Mary’s.
The Hornets, who finished the season four games ahead of the Tigers to win the Tri-County, are no stranger to the purple and gold, as the two teams squared off twice this season. On April 23 in the snowy Berkshires, McCann defeated Westfield Voc-Tech 8-0, but the rematch in Hampden County gave the host Tigers one of their more impressive wins of the season, a 5-4 nailbiter on May 13.
The Tigers will head up to the northwestern corner of the state behind the hot bat of Jake Parsons, who leads Division IV with a .509 batting average and is fourth overall with a .556 on-base percentage. Injured during the first meeting in Adams, Parsons also leads the team with 29 hits and 19 RBIs, despite his absence.
No. 4 STMHS Baseball v. No. 5 McCann Tech or No. 12 Westfield Voc-Tech
Regardless of who wins Wednesday’s showdown up in Adams, the winner will have to play a second Westfield-based team in the second round of the Division IV playoffs. If the Tigers pull off the upset, a Westfield v. Westfield showdown would take place at Bullens Field, with the Tigers taking on No. 4 Saint Mary’s.
The Saints (14-6, 7-3 Bi-County North) finished one game behind Granby, tied for second with Holyoke Catholic, but earned the bye and the higher seed after finishing with a better overall record. The Saints will be well-rested for their second round game, which is needed after playing three games in two days to end the season, during which St. Mary’s finished 3-0.
The Saints have not played McCann Tech this season, but they did defeat Westfield Voc-Tech, 7-3, early in the season for their first win of 2015. On April 15, the “visiting” Tigers jumped out to a 1-0 lead after one inning, but the Saints scored two runs in the second and third innings to jump out to a 4-1 lead. Three combined runs in the fifth and six innings helped to sustain the hosts’ lead and preserve the win.
In that game, Matthew Masciadrelli drove in a pair of runs, while Shaun Gezotis, Jacob Butler and Ryan Gendron each recorded two hits. This game would act as an early sign of production for Gezotis, who ended the regular season with a .508 batting average, .001 behind Voc.-Tech’s Jake Parsons.
Gezotis, however, did finish the season No. 1 in Division IV in both slugging percentage (.915) and on-base percentage (.642) from his leadoff spot, while teammate Matthew Hannoush finished No. 2 in on-base percentage (.580). This production led Gezotis to lead the Saints in hits (30), runs batted in (19) doubles (14) and triples (5). The sophomore was only player in Division IV to record double-digit two-baggers.