H.S. Notebook: Athol’s Lindsey LeBlanc notches milestone

  • Athol's Lindsey Leblanc pitches against Frontier in South Deerfield earlier this season. LeBlanc notched career strikeout No. 500 over the weekend. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/10/2022 5:13:18 PM
Modified: 5/10/2022 8:41:48 PM

If you’ve been struck out by Lindsey LeBlanc on the softball diamond, you’re far from alone.

The Athol ace has racked up the strikeouts during her time with the Bears. Now a senior, LeBlanc reached a career milestone over the weekend that few accomplish in their high school careers. 

Taking on Frontier on Saturday, LeBlanc struck out 15 batters, earning her 500th career strikeout along the way. Considering there was no 2020 season and a shortened 2021 softball season due to COVID, it makes hitting the milestone all the more impressive. 

Expect that strikeout number to keep rising. In 14 games this season she has recorded 172 strikeouts, averaging 12.3 punchouts per game. That average would be even higher if four of Athol’s games didn’t end in the fifth inning due to the run-limit rule.

LeBlanc — along with a strong Bears lineup — has Athol in a position to make some noise this postseason. Going into Tuesday’s games, the Bears (8-6) sit 2½ games back of Franklin Tech in the Franklin County League East standings, and they’re No. 21 in the MIAA Div. 5 power rankings.

With LeBlanc in the circle, Athol has a chance against anyone. 

■ LeBlanc isn’t the only area pitcher starring in the circle this season. Greenfield (No. 1), Turners Falls (No. 6) and Franklin Tech (No. 8) all sit in the top 10 in the Div. 5 power rankings and all three have the arms to make deep postseason runs. 

MacKenzie Paulin and Ellis Benitez have led the rotation for the Green Wave, Madi Liimatainen has starred in the circle for the Thunder, and Castleton-bound Lauren Ross has multiple shutouts on the season for the Eagles. Pitching gets more important this time of year and each team can go into big spots confident they’ll get a strong performance in the circle. 

■ Believe it or not, the postseason is right around the corner and it’ll be fascinating to watch how baseball managers handle their pitching rotations with the new pitch count rules. 

Here’s how the pitch count rule works: 1-25 pitches from a hurler requires zero days rest, 26-40 pitches requires one day rest, 41-55 pitches means two days rest, 56-70 pitches means three days rest and 71-115 pitches requires four days rest. Pitchers can throw a maximum of 115 pitches in one game. 

The dates for the Western Mass. tournament are out, with the quarterfinal games expected to be played on May 23-24, the semifinals taking place on May 26-27 and the finals on May 31-June 1. The preliminary round of the state tournament begins on June 3, with the finals set for June 18, meaning teams looking to make a run to a title could play six games in a little over a two-week span.

With the pitch count rules, it’ll take a deep rotation to raise a banner. It’ll be fascinating to watch how each manager chooses to handle it; do you throw your ace in Game 1? Save him for the semifinals? Go the Tampa Bay Rays route and throw a plethora of arms to have everyone available for all games? These are the questions each manager will have to ask themselves going in and I’ll be intrigued to see how each chooses to go about it. 

League title races

Here’s where things stand in league title races going into Tuesday:

■ Frontier baseball needs a win over either Greenfield or Hampshire to lock up the Suburban League West.

■ Pioneer’s win over Franklin Tech gives it a three-game lead in the Bi-County League North. It’ll need to win one of its final three league games (Mohawk Trail, Mahar, Turners) to clinch the title. 

■ Tuesday’s Wahconah-Greenfield softball showdown had huge Franklin County League West implications, as the Green Wave’s loss has the Warriors in the driver’s seat.

■ Franklin Tech’s win over Hopkins on Tuesday assures it will win at least a share of the Franklin County League East title. It’ll need to win one of its final two league games (Mohawk Trail, Athol) to clinch the title outright.

Pair of unbeatens fall

Both the Frontier boys tennis team and boys volleyball team lost on Monday, the Redhawks falling to West Springfield in volleyball and boys tennis losing to PVCICS. The losses were the first of the season for both  teams, which means they are the first losses in program history for both squads. Should make for a fun trivia question down the road. 

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