Class B softball: Skyler Steele belts 100th career hit, Frontier edged by Hampshire 4-3 in semifinals (PHOTOS)

Hampshire Regional pitcher Ryanne Dubay (1) flips to first baseman Teagan Charles (14) for an out while Frontier’s Addy Ehle (16) tries to beat the throw during the Raiders’ 4-3 victory in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton.

Hampshire Regional pitcher Ryanne Dubay (1) flips to first baseman Teagan Charles (14) for an out while Frontier’s Addy Ehle (16) tries to beat the throw during the Raiders’ 4-3 victory in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Frontier’s Ashley Taylor connects with a pitch against Hampshire during the Raiders’ 4-3 victory in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton.

Frontier’s Ashley Taylor connects with a pitch against Hampshire during the Raiders’ 4-3 victory in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Frontier’s Raine Wonsey (21) delivers a pitch against Hampshire during the Raiders’ 4-3 victory in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton.

Frontier’s Raine Wonsey (21) delivers a pitch against Hampshire during the Raiders’ 4-3 victory in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Frontier third baseman Hailey Hutkoski fields a ground ball against Hampshire during the Raiders’ 4-3 victory in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton.

Frontier third baseman Hailey Hutkoski fields a ground ball against Hampshire during the Raiders’ 4-3 victory in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Frontier pitcher Raine Wonsey snags a ball in play against Hampshire during the Raiders’ 4-3 victory in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton.

Frontier pitcher Raine Wonsey snags a ball in play against Hampshire during the Raiders’ 4-3 victory in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Frontier shortstop Skyler Steele throws out a Hampshire runner during the Raiders’ 4-3 victory in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton.

Frontier shortstop Skyler Steele throws out a Hampshire runner during the Raiders’ 4-3 victory in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Frontier’s Skyler Steele racked up the 100th hit of her varsity career via a two-run home run in the top of the first inning of the Redhawks’ 4-3 loss to Hampshire in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton.

Frontier’s Skyler Steele racked up the 100th hit of her varsity career via a two-run home run in the top of the first inning of the Redhawks’ 4-3 loss to Hampshire in the Western Mass. Class B semifinals on Wednesday in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/GARRETT COTE

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 05-22-2024 8:12 PM

WESTHAMPTON — The Hampshire softball team’s offense can only be bottled up for so long before they finally string together a rally.

The second-seeded Raiders picked a good time for it late in Wednesday afternoon’s Western Mass. Class B semifinal game with No. 6 Frontier.

After tying the game 3-3 with a run in the bottom of the sixth inning, Raiders ace Ryanne Dubay shut down the Redhawks’ lineup in order to put her team right back in the dugout with bats in their hands.

Kalin Dubay singled to start the bottom of the seventh, followed by a Rachael Hickox bunt. An errant throw advanced Kalin Dubay to third base and put Hickox on second. Following an intentional walk to Hailey Wodecki, Ashley Cortis stepped up with the bags loaded and nobody out.

Cortis connected with a Raine Wonsey pitch and hit a sharp ground ball in between third and short. Frontier shortstop Skyler Steele collected it in the hole and fired a throw to the plate, but Kalin Dubay slid in safely to give the Raiders a 4-3 walk-off win over the Redhawks – advancing them to the Class B title game where they look to win their ninth Western Mass. crown in the last 10 iterations.

“We tried to get her to hit the ball in the outfield,” Hampshire head coach Brian McGan said of Cortis. “She hit it hard, which was even better. They were deep in the hole and that gave us an edge to home plate. She put it in play. That’s all you have to do sometimes. We try to work on those situations in practice. She got it done when it mattered.”

Nothing came easy to the Raiders’ offense – which is widely regarded as one of the most prolific in the region. Wonsey – a seventh grader – worked through the Hampshire (13-7) batting order with ease the first time through and didn’t surrender a single hit until the fourth inning.

Two runs came across (Ryanne Dubay walked to score a run and Chelsea Vanasse grounded out to bring home another) to make it 3-2 in favor of Frontier, but only one of those runs was earned. And the two runs that came in the final two innings? Unearned as well.

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Despite it being her first Western Mass. tournament, Wonsey (6-plus innings, one earned run, six hits, two walks) wasn’t afraid of the big stage.

“She’s got incredible composure out there, and just based on her pitching, we win that game,” Redhawks head coach Gary Deane said of Wonsey’s outing. “But it’s more than that. We’ll take these lessons into the state tournament. This was a great game to prepare for that.”

Frontier (11-9) wasted no time jumping out to a lead, and it was Steele who started her terrific all-around performance with a bang. The freshman belted a two-run home run (scoring Ashley Taylor, who led the game off with a single) in the first inning for the 100th hit of her young varsity career. In the third, the Redhawks added another after Steele doubled to lead off the frame and scored on a Wonsey single two batters later to make it 3-0.

In the field, Steele made a number of dazzling plays – including a clutch double play in the bottom of the fifth inning to keep Frontier in the lead.

“The home run, the 100 hits, but she’s also probably the greatest shortstop that I’ve seen,” Deane said of Steele. “The double play she made in the fifth, they had a hard-hit ball right after that, so at that point she saved the game. That play jazzed everybody up, and she’s only a freshman.”

With Hampshire chipping away at the lead, Ryanne Dubay settled in. She bounced back from Steele’s dinger and double the following frame, and allowed just one Frontier base runner – which came on an error – from the fourth inning on.

She walked none and allowed no hits over the final four innings while retiring 14 of the final 15 Redhawks batters she faced.

The next stop for Hampshire is quite familiar territory. On Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Westfield State, the Raiders will duke it out in the Class B final with either No. 1 Pittsfield or No. 5 Easthampton – their semifinal is Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

On the other side, Frontier has been quite successful themselves over the last half decade. Although the Redhawks may not have the hardware Hampshire does to show for, they have made several deep runs into the state tournament even as double-digit seeds.

Last year Frontier had six wins entering the state tournament, yet made it to the Round of 16. Two seasons ago, the ‘Hawks had just five regular season wins. Three postseason victories later, they were in the Final Four.

Wednesday’s loss could be a stepping stone for what’s in store this spring.

“We play a really tough schedule, which benefits in the playoffs,” Deane said. “The past couple years now, we’ve had a hard time in the regular season winning games, but when tournament time comes, we’ve been tested by tough pitching. We’re just full of athletes and great kids, and we get better when it gets hot. [Hampshire] beat us by 10 [runs] earlier this season [17-7]. I’m proud of this team for the effort they put in today.”