Saturday, May 27, 2017

Turner Falls Edges Newton North Softball in a Thriller

By John McGuirk (@Patsfan1313)
MONTAGUE, Mass. - In the long and storied history of Turners Falls softball, the powerhouse program has faced, and often defeated,  its share of estimable opponents over the years .
With Newton North in town on a cool, damp Friday evening, you could make the argument that this group of Tigers would provide the stiffest challenge to date.  A Top 5 team since the beginning of season, according to various Eastern Mass. polls, Newton North is widely-considered one of the favorites to vie for a Division 1 state championship.

No stranger to winning championships, having won eight which is tied for the most in state history along with Bishop Fenwick, Turners Falls expected the obstacle before them to be its most-stringent test in school history. Entertaining any thoughts of a triumph, it would need to summon up every ounce of energy it had in order to do so.

Indeed. Turners Falls fulfilled that accomplish, scoring single runs in the third and fourth innings, respectively and holding on for a 2-1 victory.
“We were able to get some good at-bats against their pitcher who was tough,” said 38th year Turners Falls coach Gary Mullins. “We didn’t get a lot of them but we did get just enough.”
Senior pitcher Peyton Emery was strong inside the circle for Turners Falls, allowing a solo run on three hits while striking out eight.
“Peyton pitched very well tonight,” Mullins said. “She’s been pitching with a sore arm for about three weeks now. But I thought she did a great job. For the most part, everyone did a great job.”
Emery, a right-hander, out-dueled Tigers ace Maddie Schaefer. The lefty surrendered five hits and fanned six. Four of those hits belonged to sophomore Cassidhe Wozniak.
“(Schaefer) was very tough to hit,” Wozniak said. “You needed to go up to the plate and try to get her timing down. A win like this says a lot for our program. I think some people come here from outside of Western Mass. thinking that we’re just going to be some small school team and won't be strong enough to compete. But this team always comes out ready and plays hard in every game. So to win a game like this really lifts everyone’s confidence moving forward.”
Turners Falls (17-2), who no longer can use the nickname “Indians” due to a controversial on-going tug of war between school committee members and towns people, jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Jordyn Fiske’s fielder choice.
Newton North’s first official threat came in the top of the fourth after it put two runners on with two out. But Emery eluded trouble by getting Schaefer to ground into a force out at third. In the bottom of the frame, Turners Falls was able to take advantage of two of the Tigers' four errors to plate its second run courtesy of a Wozniak bases-loaded infield single.
After being set down in order in three of the first five innings, Newton North finally came to life in the top of the sixth. Caroline Bass led off with a bunt single and Kira Flegenheimer reached on a fielder’s choice, putting runners on first and second. With two outs, Elizabeth Wu delivered a run-scoring single. With the tying run now standing on third, Emery was able to strike out Schaefer and Turners Falls in the lead.
In the seventh, Emery set the Tigers down in order to come away with the win.
“Playing in this type of environment is what you want going into the postseason tournament,” said Newton North coach Lauren Baugher, her team dropping to 17-3. “I think there is a lot of things from this game that we can learn from as a team and individually. Obviously Turners Falls has a very successful program and are very good. I thought their pitcher pitched very well and kept our batters on their toes throughout. She was able to utilize her off-speed pitches and kept moving the ball all around the plate. ”
Credit Mullins and Turners Falls athletic director Adam Graves for refusing to remain stagnant by not playing a Division 3 only schedule. Turners Falls is one of a very short list of Division 3 programs willing to look beyond the trees, eager to play higher-level competition when the opportunity presents itself. Besides Newton North, Turners Falls earlier played contests against Division 1 Wachusett Regional, the top-rated team in Central Mass., as well as a pair of games versus defending back-to-back Division 2 state champion Hampshire Regional.

“We feel like playing this type of competition prepares our girls well for the postseason,” Graves said. “We want to challenge our girls and put them in different situations. Our program is at a point now where we are able to go out and do that. Teams enjoy coming here because we try to put on a good show with music, introductions, etc. and they seem to really enjoy it.”

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