Div. 5 softball: Turners Falls back in state title game following 4-1 semifinal win over Hopedale (PHOTOS)

Turners Falls pitcher Madi Liimatainen celebrates after striking out a Hopedale batter during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester.

Turners Falls pitcher Madi Liimatainen celebrates after striking out a Hopedale batter during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Turners Falls’ Addison Talbot (10) slides into second base on a steal attempt during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory over Hopedale in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester. Talbot was called out on the play.

Turners Falls’ Addison Talbot (10) slides into second base on a steal attempt during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory over Hopedale in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester. Talbot was called out on the play. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Turners Falls catcher Holly Myers snags a pop up for an out against Hopedale during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester.

Turners Falls catcher Holly Myers snags a pop up for an out against Hopedale during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Turners Falls’ Autumn Thornton (16) puts the ball in play against Hopedale during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester.

Turners Falls’ Autumn Thornton (16) puts the ball in play against Hopedale during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Turners Falls’ Madi Liimatainen delivers a pitch against Hopedale during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester.

Turners Falls’ Madi Liimatainen delivers a pitch against Hopedale during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Turners Falls’ Mia Marigliano (14) rounds second base against Hopedale during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester.

Turners Falls’ Mia Marigliano (14) rounds second base against Hopedale during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

The Turners Falls softball team lines up for pregame introductions against Hopedale during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester.

The Turners Falls softball team lines up for pregame introductions against Hopedale during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Turners Falls baserunner McKenzie Stafford slides safely into second base against Hopedale during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester.

Turners Falls baserunner McKenzie Stafford slides safely into second base against Hopedale during the Thunder’s 4-1 victory in the MIAA Division 5 semifinal round on Wednesday night at Rockwood Field in Worcester. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer 

Published: 06-12-2024 8:59 PM

Modified: 06-12-2024 10:43 PM


WORCESTER — Neither Turners Falls ace Madi Liimatainen or Hopedale hurler Lizzie Brytewski gave the opposition much to work with on Wednesday in the MIAA Division 5 softball semifinals. 

Brytewski kept the second-seeded Thunder lineup at bay throughout, allowing just three hits going into the fifth inning – Turners had scored on a sacrifice bunt in the fourth to take a 1-0 lead. 

It looked like that lone run might hold up with the way Liimatainen was pitching, as the junior had a no-hitter going into the sixth. Third-seeded Hopedale didn’t go down that easy, pushing the tying run across to make it a 1-1 game going into the bottom of the frame. 

That’s when the Turners bats came alive. Janelle Massey opened the bottom of the sixth by rocketing a triple to right field. Freshman Addison Talbot singled to right to knock her in, giving Turners a 2-1 lead. 

Talbot and Madisyn Dietz later scored on wild pitches to give the Thunder a three-run cushion going into the seventh, where Liimatainen retired the side to lift Turners into the finals via a 4-1 victory at Rockwood Field on the campus of Worcester State University. 

The Thunder return to the state finals for the second straight year and will look to win their 11th title in program history and first since 2021. 

“Another state final,” Liimatainen said. “I’m so excited. I think everyone wants it just as badly as I do. That’s what I like to see.” 

“Every single person on the field, you could see it in our eyes before the game,” Liimatainen added. “Our energy before the game, I had confidence. I knew every girl on this team wanted it. Even girls that don’t play all the time wanted it just as bad as people who start. That gives you so much confidence out there. It’s not always like that.” 

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Two killed in Royalston collision
Athol opens process for hotel proposals
Athol Police Logs: July 9 to July 17, 2024
Nature lovers turn out for annual Moth Ball in Athol
More than a year in the making, gun bill on guv’s desk
Franklin County transitions to new interoperable radio system

Turners (20-5) advanced to play No. 4 Georgetown in the state finals. That championship game is scheduled for noon on Saturday at Sortino Field on the campus of UMass. 

“Madi threw well,” Turners coach Gary Mullins said. “When she throws well, we always have a chance. Janelle has had three or four huge hits for us and she had the last one for us today. [Talbot] came up and knocked the other hit. Nice answer. This game is about timely hitting, pitching and making a few plays.” 

Liimatainen finished the game with 12 strikeouts, scattering just the two hits and walking two. While holding the lead after the fourth, the junior said she knew a tough Hopedale lineup wasn’t going to quit, knowing more runs would be needed for Turners. 

“I knew one run wasn’t going to do it,” Liimatainen said. “We all knew we had to hit the ball and we hit this pitcher better than some of us thought we were going to. We worked hard yesterday on outside [pitches] and Janelle cracked it open. We all fed off that hit. She got it going for us.” 

A Talbot single in the second and a Mia Marigliano single in the third stood as the lone two hits in the game going into the fourth. 

Turners’ Holly Myers drew a walk to open the fourth. McKenzie Stafford, running for Myers, moved to second after Massey was hit by a pitch. The pair moved up on a wild pitch, bringing Anne Kolodziej to the plate with runners on second and third. 

The senior put down a bunt that reached Brytewski, but Stafford used her speed to beat the throw home, giving the Thunder the opening lead of the game. 

Hopedale (20-4) answered in the sixth. MacKenzie Reynolds put down a perfectly placed bunt to give the Blue Raiders their first hit of the game. 

Tori Miranda followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Reynolds to second. Two batters later Kelsey Evans blooped a single to center, scoring Reynolds to tie the game. 

Massey said when she got to the plate to lead off the bottom of the sixth she had confidence, having made solid contact earlier in the game. 

“I knew I had to get in there and get a hit so that we could get back up,” Massey said. “I wasn’t anticipating a triple but I’ll take it. I knew I had to get a hit and knew I was able to since I made good contact during my first at bat. The first good pitch I swung and it worked.” 

After Talbot’s single to score Massey, Dietz and Marilyn Abarua drew back-to-back walks. Talbot scored on a wild pitch before Dietz stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on another wild pitch to make it 4-1.

Facing Brytewski, a lefty, Turners spent the last two practices focusing on outside pitches. The time on the practice field paid off, as both Thunder hits went to right field in the sixth. The club routinely hit the ball to right field over the course of the game.

“She throws the ball away so we spent the last two days hitting the outside pitch,” Mullins said. “It came in spades. We hit the ball to right field. The kids did a terrific job taking what we practiced and doing it in the game today. I was really happy about that.”