The Recorder – Keeping Score: Spring Tournaments Bloom
The MIAA’s new tournament format resulted in a plethora of baseball and softball games being played this week in Northfield, Turners Falls, Greenfield and South Deerfield. “It’s working as we hoped,” said MIAA media liaison Nate Bonneau, “we’re finding large and enthusiastic crowds.”
The format was implemented to compensate for the plight of the Mass West champions who were invariably grilled in the state finals. “Almost always their entry was significantly smaller and they just didn’t have a fighting chance,” Bonneau said. “We worked on the idea of a statewide tournament. We’ve broken them down into similar sizes by registration, so if Nantucket has to go to Greenfield, this is it.
In fact, the Northampton men’s tennis team ended up at Martha’s Vineyard but may have spotted James Taylor or Spike Lee.
The Division 5 softball tournament featured 39 teams, including No. 2 seed Greenfield, No. 2 Turners Falls and No. 4 Franklin County Tech. As of this writing, all three are advancing to the title match next week at Sortino Field at UMass, and the No. 21 Frontier is looking for a surprise Friday afternoon at Tech.
Five local baseball teams competed in the tournament, but Pioneer was the only one to advance to the Round of 16. The Panthers’ run continued into the quarter-finals after a 10-6 loss to Oxford on Thursday. Others included Tech, who were defeated by Boylston’s Tahanto Regional, Turners Falls, who lost to Smith Voc, and Frontier, who were upset by Harvard’s Bromfield School.
Meanwhile, at Vets Field on Monday, a good crowd turned out to watch Tom Suchanek’s Green Wave play Mystic Valley, a regional charter school in Malden about 10 miles north of Fenway Park. Athletic director Mike Kuchieski was watching practice on the field from his golf cart near third base when Deion Brewington and Ryan Pulizari drove by. “Hi Coach,” one said.
The longtime grid coach returned the salute, pleased that they were loyal to their school. I spotted Brewington in the stand near the GHS dugout and asked him what position he would be playing in this season. “I want to run the ball, but they might need me on the line,” Brewington said between bites of his plate of chicken and rice he bought from Tito.
The base sat in folding chairs near Kuchieski, and die-hards like Jerry Burgess, Tom Bresciano, Colin Cloutier and Rob Charboneau stood behind the backstop as they heard the sound of the ball in the catcher’s glove.
GHS was hosting three teams in two days from remote locations, but Kuchieski said no one complained about travel costs. “Referees are the ones complaining about the gas,” he said.
Umpires get $104 for a seven-inning game, which isn’t a lot considering Newt Guilbault League umpires in Turners Falls get $75 for six-inning games in their backyard. Monday’s plate umpire Andy Rogers drove 70 miles round trip from South Hadley to call balls and strikes. Gasoline is $5 a gallon, which costs him $15 out of pocket, and next April’s tax deduction means he will earn about $70. That’s barely enough for two lobster rolls and a $6 tip at Restaurant 99.
“Andy is the superintendent of parks at South Hadley,” said Burgess, whose friendship with Rogers likely stems from being a high school and college basketball official. “Don’t call him there, call him on the golf course.”
It didn’t take long for the faithful to know that this was not Greenfield’s day. The blunders included a disallow, a runner picked at second base, the third baseman and catcher collided on a drop popup, and the Wave’s Jackson Petrin had the team’s only two hits. “You can’t win a lot of games with two hits,” Suchanek told Thomas Johnston of the Recorder after the 2-0 loss.
Meanwhile, up the Connecticut River in Northfield, Braeden Tsipenyuk, Hugh Cyhowski, Sean Allen, Ian Simpson, Peter Loud and brothers Ethan and Jason Quinn were wearing out the bases and pitcher Jared Hubbard retired the first nine batters during the 11- 2 victory over Saint Joseph Prep.
“Across the lineup, we’re used to stringing together a lot of hits,” Panthers coach Kevin Luippold told George Miller of the Recorder.
More than 300 townspeople turned out to support their home nine, enthralled by a 19-1 ball club that caught lightning in a bottle.
The new format gave schools the opportunity to show off their campuses to new opponents. Both Greenfield and Turners Falls had freshly mowed sports fields under towering lampposts. At Franklin Tech, the lush green softball field is the result of the school’s underground irrigation system. “You can see where the pipes end,” chuckled landscaping instructor Kurt Richardson, pointing to the brown grass beyond the outfield. Richardson said carpentry students built the canoes, carved from hemlock taken from the nearby forest.
At Pioneer, coaches and players tried to make their pitch presentable. It was a valiant but unsuccessful effort to cover up the school district’s failure to fund capital improvements.
Saint Joseph Prep is a private Catholic school in wealthy Brighton, and parents arrived at Volvos. What they saw probably made them wonder if they were in Schitt’s Creek. The scoreboard is a broken relic, a black tarp was used as an outfield fence, and a batting cage against the backstop prevented seniors from seeing the game from their cars.
“I will look at the situation on the ground from a glass half full perspective,” Pioneer Superintendent Patricia Kinsella emailed. “Despite all the shortcomings, there is a story of well-being on the pitch. What you see as shortcomings can be seen as tasks to be completed.
Many tasks indeed, and procrastinating is no longer an option. The Panthers welcome 13 Sutton for a spot in Div. 5 semi-finals today at 2 p.m. at Northfield.
Recently, we reported that the UMass baseball team’s only college World Series appearance was in 1969, but Bill Pedigree of Greenfield says his brother Bob captained the 1954 team that went to the CWS under the direction of coach Earl Lorden. “They won Regionals at Pynchon Park in Springfield and went to Omaha,” Pedigree said, adding that his brother hit .376 that season.
According to the record books, UMass was 15-7 in 1954 and beat Springfield College, Boston University and Amherst College to qualify for the CWS and beat Oregon, but lost to Oregon. State of Michigan and Missouri.
“Earl Lorden was the cream of the crop, a kind, kind, kind man. Dick Bergquist was on the team and the catcher was Yogi Wisnewski,” said Pedigree, who added that his brother spent five years in the Indians organization.
According to baseball-reference.com, Pedigree was a career .258 infielder and hitter who played for teams in Quebec, Illinois, North Carolina, Alabama and Pennsylvania.
Baseball historian Brian Miner adds another name to the short list of major leaguers born in Franklin County. Ladislaw Waldemar Wittkowski was born in Orange on September 28, 1895. “His name would later be recorded on a 1915 major league roster card for Philadelphia A manager Cornelius McGillicuddy (aka Connie Mack, born in East Brookfield). Mack shortened it to Witt and added “Whitey” due to Witt’s blond hair, he was traded to the Yankees and became the first batter to enter the plate inside the house Ruth built.
UMass has landed quarterback Ahmad “The Problem” Haston, who will be a senior this year at Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington, Florida. Haston was recruited by defensive backs coach Darrell Perkins to play at UConn, but Perkins was later hired by Don Brown and convinced Haston to join him at Amherst. The talented youngster is not lacking in self-confidence, telling Mike Traini of 247sports.com: “My ability to run and throw at an extremely high level has given me the nickname ‘The Problem’ for opposing defences.”
Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has written his observations of the sport over four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be contacted at [email protected]