Lindsey LeBlanc pitches No. 7 Athol past Sabis, 5-0

For the Recorder
Published: 6/21/2021 9:51:14 PM
Modified: 6/21/2021 9:51:18 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Lindsey LeBlanc was all smiles in the circle on Monday.

The Athol softball ace was dominant in her outing against second-seeded Sabis, lifting the seventh-seeded Bears to a convincing 5-0 win in the Western Mass. Division 2 quarterfinals.

Athol (11-3) advanced to play the winner of No. 3 Wahconah and No. 6 Greenfield on the road in the semifinal round on Wednesday.

“We definitely did not come out flat today,” Athol coach Sharon Chauvette said. “That was one thing we talked about at practice (Sunday). They definitely wanted it today. Lindsey was lights out.”

After striking out 10 batters, LeBlanc had reason to be happy with her performance.

“You can't take everything that seriously,” LeBlanc said.

Some of the smiles came after she disagreed with the umpire.

“If I throw a pitch that did what it was supposed to do and he calls it a ball, I can't be upset,” LeBlanc said. “Getting upset makes me throw worse.”

LeBlanc flirted with a no-hitter, and it did cross her mind during the game, she admitted.

“Right at the beginning of the inning I thought, 'Ooh I am throwing a no-hitter right now,’” she said.

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning however, LeBlanc's teammate in the offseason, Jayden Dow, laced a double for Sabis to break up the no-hitter. The Bulldogs (12-1) were undefeated heading into the postseason.

“Of course she was the one to get a hit,” LeBlanc said of Dow. “My spots were working really well. So was my drop. It came in handy. Change-up every once in a while was working.”

Even when the Bulldogs made contact, Athol's defense cleaned it up for her. The Bears did not commit an error in the game. Catcher Sadey Lehtomaki gave her pitcher a 1-0 lead in the first inning with an RBI single. Lehtomaki went 2-for-3 with a run scored and a stolen base for Athol.

“She was on,” Lehtomaki said of LeBlanc. “We had a good feeling coming into the game. Getting the early lead hyped us up.”

The early lead allowed LeBlanc to settle into her outing.

“I was very proud of us getting that lead early,” LeBlanc said. “The last game (against Taconic) we waited a little bit to get our bats going. The fact that we got some runs early definitely got me more comfortable.”

The Bears played aggressively early, running after getting on-base consistently. Emma Bacigalupo led off the game with an infield single before immediately taking second base on a steal.

“That was part of the game plan,” Chauvette said.

The Bears struck for three more runs in the top of the fourth inning.

LeBlanc led off the frame with a single before an RBI hit by Lexi Forte. During the at-bat, Forte fouled off several pitches before getting one she liked to bring home LeBlanc.

“The pitcher today was throwing a lot inside and I have trouble with that,” Forte said. “I kept swinging late. I noticed that and started swinging earlier and faster. All in all it's just self-discipline and knowing where the ball is.”

Jenna Bonenfant added an RBI ground out in the inning for the Bears. Another run came across the plate after a Bulldogs’ throwing error.

In the sixth inning, Lehtomaki ripped a double with one out before Samantha Kenniff powered a triple to bring her home and give Athol a 5-0 lead.

For Sabis, Dow had a strong performance in the circle. In seven innings of work she struck out 10 hitters while allowing eight hits and two walks.

During the regular season, Dow went over 500 strikeouts for her career with the Bulldogs.

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