Sunday, June 17, 2018

MIAA Softball: Pittsfield, Greenfield, Turners Falls Capture Sectional Crowns

By John McGuirk (@Patsfan1313)

Amherst, Mass. – It became evident early that Pittsfield was done with playing the role of runner up in Division 1 Western Mass. championship contests. Coming up short in the 2017 and 2015 title games,  the Generals were chomping at the bit as repeat participants on Saturday.

Racing out to a substantial lead early, Pittsfield made it hold as it went on to win 11-3 over Northampton in the Sectional Final played at UMass' Sortino Field.

The top-seeded Generals (22-0) wreaked most of their havoc during the first two innings putting up seven runs. They will face Wachusett Regional (23-0) in the state semifinal on Tuesday beginning at 7 p.m. from Worcester State University's Rockwood Field. 

Pittsfield combined for 11 hits, with two each belonging to Brianna Clary, Madison Tobin and Jordyn Lummus. Winning pitcher Guilliana Pierce was solid inside the circle. The right-hander allowed five hits, struck out three and walked none to pick up her 14th win on the season.

The Generals jumped in front right away. A Blue Devils error led to the first run before an RBI sacrifice fly off of the bat of Clary made it 2-0 after one inning. Pittsfield, taking advantage of four Northampton errors overall, put this one away in the second. Tobin got things started by reaching on an error. The senior came around to score a short time later on Pierce's double. With one out, Lummus launched an RBI triple into right field scoring Tess Lyon. Natasha Shade's line single plated Lummus to make it 5-0. Hayley Tobin next lofted a ball into right field that was dropped allowing Shade to come all the way around to score. Moments later, Tobin scored on Sarah McMahon's ground single up the middle to make it 7-0 Generals.

In the top of the fourth, No. 3 Northampton (19-4) made a bit of noise in its attempt to crawl back. Emma Tanner led off with a single and Anna Kerwood reached on an error. Two batters later, Abigail Pelis drove Tanner in with an RBI single. Anna Connly followed that up by smacking a double to right, plating Kerwood. With runners now on second and third, Marissa Badorini's ground out brought Pelis to make it a 7-3 contest.

"When (Northampton) scored three in that inning it sort of woke our girls up a little bit and they said no more," said Pittsfield coach Greg Marchbanks. "The girls really wanted this. We have great leadership on this team starting with our three senior captains (Hayley Tobin, Britney Perkett and Pierce).”

Kerwood, the Blue Devils pitcher, was able to keep the Generals' bats silent over the third, fourth and fifth frames. But trouble loomed for the senior in the sixth. A lead-off double by Lummas was soon followed by Perkett reaching safely on a fielder's choice. With Northampton coach Andy Pelis opting to bring his left fielder into the infield, Shade grounded a triple into the vacated area in left field, upping Pittsfield's total to 9-3.

"We were looking to get a jump on them early in the game," Shade said. "Usually when we jump on teams early we tend to work a lot harder. We just work hard everyday and we know that we always want to get back here and try to win a championship. Most of us have been playing together since (AAU U-10) so we've grown up together.”

A Hayley Tobin ground out brought Shade to the plate, and Clary, who singled, came around to score on another Northampton fielding miscue.

"We can practice all we want but (Pittsfield) is a helluva team,'' said Pelis, who graduates just five seniors. "They put us back on our heels a little bit. We played a bit tentative early and that cost us. Overall, I felt we had a great season and hats off to them and we wish them the best moving forward."

Joy sets down Warriors

When you have a pitcher the likes of Olivia Joy, chances are opponents are going to struggle at the plate. That scenario played out perfectly as the Greenfield ace stymied Wahconah Regional en route to a 2-1 victory in the Division 2 Western Mass. final held at Sortino Field.

Joy, a junior, was on the mark all throughout. The right-hander scattered just a pair of hits while fanning 10 in helping the Green Wave win their first sectional crown since 1986. Painting both corners, and routinely offering up a near unhittable rise ball, Joy, after surrendering an Abby Wells lead-off inside the park home run to begin the contest, proceeded to shut the Warriors down the rest of the way.

No. 1 Greenfield (19-2) will face Leicester (18-6) here on Tuesday in the state semifinal starting at 4 p.m.

"We have been working so hard for this," said Joy. "We were able to buckle down today and finish it. All season long we have taken things inning-by-inning and hope to score some runs. Today we did enough." 

Wells' round-tripper, which caromed off the centerfield wall and rolled back towards the infield, gave the third-seeded Warriors (16-7) a brief advantage.

But the Green Wave soon knotted the game in the second thanks to an RBI double by freshman Gianna Conte. Over the first three innings, Greenfield had ample chances to put this one away but failed to capitalize with runners on base. Over the first three frames, the Green Wave stranded six runners and eight for the game. 

"One of the things we have been really good at this year is scoring runs," Green Wave coach Rian Lovett said.

In its attempt to solve Wells inside the circle, Greenfield managed to plate the eventual winning run in its half of the fifth. Samantha Smith opened by ripping a double to centerfield. One out later, Howland grounded a single up the middle, scoring Smith. But Wells was able to avoid further trouble by setting down the next two batters. 

"I knew when Sam got on that someone was going to drive her in," said Lovett. "Liz is my senior captain and she really came through for us today. She's been coming through for us all season long. I couldn't have asked for anyone better to do that in that situation. It's been an amazing year for us.”

The Warriors put up a mild threat in their half of the sixth. An error and a walk opened the inning with runners on first and second. A Morgan Marauszwski bunt out in front resulted in a force out at third base. After a wild pitch advanced two runners into scoring position, Joy was able to bear down by retiring Jess Warren and Emma Perkington, keeping the Green Wave on top. Joy finished Wahconah in order in the seventh to record the win.

"Obviously we came here to win today," Warriors coach Dustin Belcher said. "I told our girls that their careers aren't defined by one inning, one pitch or one game. It's a whole journey and they all have a lot to be proud of. We have a good core coming back next year. They got a taste of things today, and now hopefully it will drive them to take the next step." 

Turners Falls rolls

Rarely will legendary Turners Falls coach Gary Mullins find more positives than negatives no matter the outcome. Following Turners Falls 8-3 decision over Mount Everett in the Division 3 Western Mass. final, the 39-year mentor and perfectionist had plenty of things to bitter his taste. The win marks the second consecutive year that the Thunder have defeated the Eagles in the championship round.

The top-seed Turners Falls (20-3) was less than perfect inside Sortino Field, yet still managed to capture its 20th district title. The most-productive and decorated high school softball program in state history moves on to the state semifinal round Tuesdaywhere they will meet Hopedale (14-9) at Rockwood Field. 

The Thunder, formerly known as the Indians, have won a state record nine championships, including three straight. 

"Yeah I'm a little disappointed with our play," sighed Mullins. "We weren't sharp today. We better get better in a hurry that is for sure. We are lucky to us having gotten this far the way we have been playing of late. We did get 10 hits today so I guess that's a good thing. But I have to keep reminding myself that these are still young kids."

After jumping ahead 1-0 on a first inning Marion Devoti RBI, the Eagles watch as the Thunder took control of things soon thereafter. Despite leaving three runners on, Turners Falls tied the game in the bottom of the first on Tyler's RBI single. The Thunder then struck for three more tallies in the second. A two-run bloop single by Olivia Whittier put Turners Falls ahead by a pair. A Hailey Bogusz RBI ground out made it 4-1.

Facing Mount Everett sophomore pitcher Faith Angell, the Thunder struggled as the righty continued to mix up her speeds to the plate. 

In the Thunder's half of the fourth, they had two runners on with two out. With Angell trying to keep this affair close, she fired a fastball on the outside of the plate in which Emery got just enough of it to spray a single into shallow right to plate both runners and put Turners Falls ahead 6-1.

"If you give up when you are trailing then you are not going to make it to where you want to go," Thayer said. "Once we started to score we all got more comfortable and more confident in ourselves."

Tyler, another freshman, went five strong innings for the Thunder, allowing a run on just two hits while striking out two before giving way to Emery to open the sixth.

"We all want to win keep this season going," said Tyler. "Everyone works hard all the time. I was a little nervous to start but then I just tried to settle down and pitch my game. After they went up, we all knew that we would come back because we knew one run wasn't going to beat us."

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