Wojnar's heroics send Purple Knights to postseason

Matt Beauchemin of Holyoke throws a pitch for the Purple Knights.
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza
May 30, 2012

By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

HOLYOKE — The breaks finally went the right way just in the nick of time for the Holyoke High School baseball team.

After losing their previous two attempts at clinching a playoff spot by one run apiece, the Purple Knights were able to make their way into the postseason on May 25, beating East Longmeadow 1-0 with a walk-off single and thwarting a chance at history in the process.

In the final inning of the final game of the regular season, Matt Wojnar reached out and poked a breaking ball into the outfield to score pinch runner Marc Girard, denying East Longmeadow pitcher Steve Moyers his 30th career victory and securing a playoff spot for Knights.

"I was looking for a mid-high fastball and I got it one time only, so then I had to just reach out for the curveball and poke it into the outfield," Wojnar said.

The Knights finished the regular season at 10-10, giving them the necessary .500 record to qualify for the Western Massachusetts regional tournament. The team's record stood at 9-8 after a close win over rival Chicopee on May 16, but the berth-clinching 10th win proved to be harder to achieve.

Holyoke first dropped a 5-4 decision to West Springfield, then held a very tough Cathedral team at bay for most of the game, but came up short, 2-1, making the matchup with East Longmeadow a must-win.

"A couple of my pitchers have pitched great games that we've lost by one run," Holyoke Head Coach Tom Brassil said. "In the game against Cathedral, [Endy Sanchez] pitched a four hitter, a great game, and we still lost."

Connor Costello started off the inning with a hard-hit ball to third baseman Garrett Baker that ate him up and bounced off his chest. Matt Beauchemin followed with another shot to third that got by Baker, who was drawn in.

Cleanup hitter Zach Prout then laid down a sacrifice, moving Girard, who pinch ran for Costello, and Beauchemin to third and second, respectively, setting up Wojnar's heroics.

"Our hitting has been questionable lately. We haven't seemed to be able to put the ball in play, but we did today," Brassil said. "Right at the end of the game, we put two balls in play, then Wojnar came up with the big hit."

Both pitchers proved to be extremely tough throughout the game. Beauchemin was stellar, allowing just four hits all game while striking out four. After giving up two hits in the first inning, he went on to retire the next 11 batters.

In the top of the seventh, he gave up a double to start the inning, but dug in and struck out the side to keep the game knotted at 0-0.

"He's done that all year. He's been great. That's the strength of this team — our pitchers," Brassil said. "Endy Sanchez is a sophomore, Matt Beauchemin is a junior and Wojnar is a sophomore, so for a staff without a dominant senior pitcher, it's pretty good."

On the other side, Moyers gave up just the one unearned run on two hits, while striking out seven Knights. After giving up a two-out single in the first, he retired 16 straight. Over the first six innings, he retired 18 of 19 batters.

Brassil said his team is well aware of what a feat beating Moyers was.

"We know how good this guy is," Brassil said. "We've been facing him since he was a freshman and I think he's beaten us every time."

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