Greenfield eliminates Athol softball

  • Athol’s Jenna St. Cyr slides in safely on a second base steal while the ball gets behind Greenfield shortstop Samantha Smith during Monday’s matchup between the two team’s on June 11 in Greenfield. For the Athol Daily News/Mike Phillips

  • Athol shortstop Haley Bigwood sends a ball into left field for a double in the seventh inning against Greenfield High School on June 11 in Greenfield. For the Athol Daily News/Mike Phillips

  • Athol shortstop Haley Bigwood makes a play on a line drive for the third out of the fourth inning against Greenfield High School on June 11 in Greenfield. For the Athol Daily News/Mike Phillips

  • Athol third baseman Jenna St. Cyr plays the ground ball in the second inning and eventually got the out on a throw to first to end the inning, leaving a runner stranded on third base against Greenfield High School on June 11 in Greenfield. For the Athol Daily News/Mike Phillips

  • Athol right fielder makes a catch on a fly ball for the second out in the fifth inning against Greenfield High School on June 11 in Greenfield. Lajoie barely got a glove on it, but grabbed the ball with her left hand and threw it in before she could drop the ball. For the Athol Daily News/Mike Phillips

Sports Writer
Monday, June 11, 2018

GREENFIELD — On Tuesday, through the first six innings, the matchup between No. 1 seeded Greenfield varsity softball team and No. 8 Athol Red Raiders seemed like anyone’s for the taking.

One of western Massachusetts’ soon-to-be best pitchers in Athol’s Lindsey Leblanc matched zeroes with one of western Massachusetts’ best in Olivia Joy. Unfortunately for Leblanc and the Red Raiders, the Green Wave strung together three triples and one single in the sixth inning to win 3-1 in the quarter final round of the Western Massachusetts Division II playoff tournament.

“I liked the fact that we came ready to play,” said Athol coach Sharon Chauvette. “We swung the bat, (Joy) only had a couple of strikeouts. That was key for us. Since we found out we were playing Greenfield, (we had the) pitching machine cranking outside at 55 to 60 (miles per hour), swinging the bat. We were able to put the ball in play today, which was nice to see.”

Greenfield advances to the semi-final round and will face Hampshire High School, who defeated Easthampton 7-0 mere minutes beforehand. Athol’s season comes to a close with the loss.

It seemed like the Red Raiders had the formula to defeat Joy. They made her work for every out. As a pitcher fanning an 13 batters per seven inning going into the game, Joy struck out only three Athol batters. However, the Red Raiders came up short in the hits department, generating three throughout the game. Their lone run came on and errant throw by shortstop Samantha Smith in the top of the seventh inning with the Red Raiders down 3-0.

“She’s a phenomenal pitcher, hats off to her,” said Chauvette. “We knew the only way we were going to have a chance was if we hit the ball and that’s what we’ve been stressing, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, today before we came here. We decided to come early and we were ready, so I’m not dissappointed at all. They’re seeded No. 1. We were eight. Plan on being right back here next year.”

Greenfield coach Rian Lovett felt it wasn’t Joy’s best performance.

“I knew that the mentality of any of these teams we’re going to face right now is get on her first pitch, get on her early and be aggressive,” said Lovett. “That’s what it was. She’s going to tell you and I’m going to tell you, it wasn’t the best game I’ve seen her pitch. Her stuff wasn’t working like it usually works, so she battled in there hard.”

Leblanc went toe to toe with Joy, striking out four batters and letting up only one hit through the first five innings, stranding five runners in the process and worked out of a runners on first and second, one-out situation in the second by striking out back-to-back hitters. But the situation came undone in the sixth inning, when the Green Wave put together four hits to take the 3-0 lead.

With one out and Samantha Smith on third after tripling off the left-center wall and through a diving Rozlyn Nelson, Greenfield’s Elizabeth Howland tripled on a ball off Athol second baseman Destiny Wrigley’s glove out in right field. Wrigley sprinted back and actually had the ball in the palm of her glove. Before she could close it, right fielder Hannah Lajoie collided with Wrigley, which forced the ball to come out and allowed Howland to go all the way around to third and to score the game’s first run. Howland then scored on a triple by Kristen Ward. Ward scored on a two-out single by Raegan Hickey to put her team up 3-0.

“It was great to have both my seniors up next and drive both runs in,” said Lovett. “It’s nice to see the leadership up there and get out of it.”

The Red Raiders fought back in the top of the seventh, but came up short. Bigwood began the inning with a double to left. After moving up to third on a wild pitch, with one out, Bigwood came home on an throwing error by Smith that put catcher Sadey Lehtomaki on second. With Lehtomaki in scoring position, Lajoie then popped out to short and Jenna St. Cyr grounded out to third for the 3-1 Green Wave victory.

“It was really an intense game,” said Leblanc. “We knew it was going to be hard coming in, so we just tried to stay positive the entire time.”

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