Youth baseball: Amherst, South Hadley Suburban teams enjoy “great experience” playing at UMass’ Lorden Field

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 06-13-2024 9:12 PM

AMHERST — Although the stage might have been the biggest one the Amherst and South Hadley Suburban League 15U Koufax Division teams had ever stepped foot on, both teams rose to the occasion at Earl Lorden Field on the campus of UMass on Thursday evening.

Amherst pulled away with a 34-3 win in five innings, sparked by a huge first inning in which its first eight batters came around to touch home, but the scoreboard was irrelevant – aside from the fact that both teams’ names were displayed brightly, much to enjoyment of the players on both sides.

“We told the kids that [Amherst] is one of the toughest teams we’re gonna play, but to come out onto a field that some of these kids are dreaming to play on one day is an incredible experience,” South Hadley manager James Magagnoli said. “We took a bunch of pictures on the field, and the kids were so excited when we showed up. Just to see South Hadley on the scoreboard was awesome for them. They had a great time regardless of the score.”

The wide-eyed young teenagers blocked out their surroundings plenty enough to make several terrific plays. Amherst’s Brady Klaes ripped a two-run, inside-the-park home run, Cyrus Arwade struck out two in the only inning he pitched and South Hadley’s defense adjusted to the rapid speeds of the UMass infield to make a handful of good plays in the latter stages of the contest.

All told, Thursday was filled with unforgettable moments on both sides.

“It’s just an amazing opportunity for these kids to get to play on a Division 1 college diamond that is right in their hometown,” Amherst manager Nick Reich said. “It’s a real treat, and we’re grateful that UMass has allowed us to have this opportunity – because this is special.”

Reich and another ‘Canes coach both work at UMass. In the spring, the Minutemen baseball team holds an annual day dedicated to youth baseball in the town of Amherst. Youth teams from each division come to a UMass game and are recognized on the field. They get to hangout with the players pregame, be on the field for the national anthem and go through the high-five line before settling in to watch a Division 1 ball game.

Having already made connections from that over the last three springs, Reich asked to take it a step further.

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“The next step was to get the kids who were old enough to play on this size diamond out here,” Reich said. “And here we are.”

Arwade stepped to the bump in the bottom of the first inning with a huge cushion thanks to the Hurricanes’ hot bats. He didn’t feel nervous, but one thing popped into his head the second he threw his first pitch.

He had never pitched on a mound quite like the one at UMass.

“I might never be able to play on a field like this again, so it was just a really great experience,” Cyrus Arwade said. “When I pitched the first inning, it was incredible how nice the mound was. It was a beautiful experience to be out here where some really talented baseball players have been.”

Amherst player Nick Stinson couldn’t believe how quick the ground balls traveled on the UMass infield. Not only is the grass cut low, the dirt is compact and smooth – both of which help the baseball jump off the bat.

And when it was Stinson’s turn to pitch in the second inning, he was only worried about performing at a high level.

“The ground balls came in so much faster,” Stinson said. “I’m used to the longer grass slowing them down. I was a little bit nervous [pitching], but I was just thinking, ‘I hope I do well.’”

Klaes enjoyed a stellar day at the dish. After doubling in his first plate appearance, he cracked one well over the center fielder’s head in the second inning. He let his speed do the rest as he cruised into home, much to the delight of his teammates.

Hitting a home run at UMass can be added to his list of baseball accomplishments.

“It’s really cool to have a Division 1 field to play at, because you only get this experience once if you don’t play D1,” Klaes said. “To share the field with these guys and get a lot of hits and runs and win the game was really cool.”

On the other side of the field, South Hadley’s spirits remained high regardless of the score. The Tigers fell behind, but put together a strong second inning in response. Brady Manijak doubled home Rowan Joy to plate their first run of the day, then Manijak scored on a walk drawn by Theo Khom. Sam Harrison then came in to score on a passed ball to cap off a three-run frame.

South Hadley’s dugout was loud and proud during its big inning and stayed that way the rest of the way.

“My biggest thing with these kids is teamwork and camaraderie even when we’re down,” Magagnoli said. “These kids didn’t get into a bad mood, and they were cheering each other on no matter what. Win or lose, we always want to have fun playing the game and learn as we go along.”

13U baseball

Northampton 6, Longmeadow 2 — The Lancers are undefeated no more, and it came at the hands of the Blue Devils at Turner Park on Wednesday afternoon. Dylan Lawrence-Riddell tossed a gem for Northampton, including getting out of a jam (Longmeadow had runners on second and third with no outs) in the first inning buoyed by two big strikeouts.

Lawrence-Riddell struck out eight batters in five innings, giving up only two hits and no runs. At the plate, Oliver Yau (single, double) drove in a run as did Iggy Piotrowski (one hit), and Maceo Nteta tallied two RBIs while Elliot Frankl (single, walk) stole four bases in the win for the Blue Devils. Nteta relieved Lawrence-Riddell and closed out the game on the mound.

Owen Jusko led Longmeadow with three hits in four at bats.

Northampton tied Longmeadow earlier in the season, and it clinched a huge victory on Wednesday to add another blemish to the Lancers’ record.

5th/6th baseball

The Amherst Red Sox finished up a perfect 10-0 season this week, turning in an unbeaten record in a true stretch of dominance throughout the league. The Red Sox coaches would like to congratulate Bobby, Colin, Dakota, Isaac, Johnny, Jonah, Julian, Linden, Omar, Paxton and Sam for finishing 10-0 this season.

“This is a remarkable team accomplishment,” Amherst coach John Siano said.