Softball: Hopkins edges Athol in regular season finale (PHOTOS)

  • Athol catcher Sadey Lehtomaki secures a pop up against Hopkins Academy on Thursday in Hadley. The Bears lost 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Hopkins Academy seventh grader Cassie Dion pitches against Athol on Thursday in Hadley. The Golden Hawks won 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Hopkins Academy seventh grader Cassie Dion pitches against Athol on Thursday in Hadley. The Golden Hawks won 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Hopkins Academy’s Cassidi Mushenski throws to first over Hopkins pitcher Cassie Dion against Athol on Thursday in Hadley. The Golden Hawks prevailed 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Hopkins Academy senior Gabby Dyjach swings against Athol on Thursday in Hadley. The Golden Hawks triumphed 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Athol’s Jenna Bonenfant throws to first base against Hopkins Academy on Thursday in Hadley. The Bears fell 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Athol’s Emma Bacigalupo rounds third base against Hopkins Academy on Thursday in Hadley. The Bears lost 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Hopkins Academy shortsop Taylor Barry throws to first base against Athol on Thursday in Hadley. The Golden Hawks won 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Hopkins Academy shortsop Taylor Barry flips to second base against Athol on Thursday in Hadley. The Golden Hawks won 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Athol’s Lindsey LeBlanc pitches against Hopkins Academy on Thursday in Hadley. The Bears fell 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Athol’s Lindsey LeBlanc pitches against Hopkins Academy on Thursday in Hadley. The Bears fell 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Athol’s Lindsey LeBlanc flips to first base against Hopkins Academy on Thursday in Hadley. The Bears fell 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Hopkins Academy center fielder Ana Dyjach receives a hug from coach Paula Cristoforo after the Golden Hawks defeated Athol 9-7 on Thursday in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Athol celebrates Lindsey LeBlanc’s two-run homer against Hopkins Academy on Thursday in Hadley. The Golden Hawks prevailed 9-7. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer 
Published: 5/19/2022 8:18:33 PM
Modified: 5/19/2022 8:16:48 PM

HADLEY – With two outs, the game-tying runs on second and third and the go-ahead runner standing at the plate, the Athol softball team held its collective breath as Maddi Hermes hit a high fly to center field, hoping for the ball to find the ground. 

Instead, it found the safety of a Hopkins Academy mitt, and the Golden Hawks were able to celebrate a 9-7 Franklin County League East win on Thursday. The two teams finished tied for second place in the final league standings behind FCL East champion Franklin Tech.

“I was hoping to get a win for my sister [Gabby] for her senior night,” Hopkins Academy’s Anna Dyjach said after the victory. “I’m happy for her… she’s one in a million.” 

The last time the two league rivals faced off, Hopkins walked away with a 10-5 victory. This time, the visiting Bears made it a lot more difficult, staying within striking distance all game. It helped that they were riding the momentum of a key 4-2 win over Franklin Tech on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the group couldn’t quite match that intensity for the entire game to get a second win in as many days.

“I just thought we'd come in with the same intensity and we really didn't,” Athol head coach Sharon Chauvette said. “It just seems like we don't always do well back-to-back games. They fought to the end, which I'm proud of. This is a little bit of a letdown after having such a big win [Wednesday].”

The Bears started off on the right foot, driving in two runs to take an early 2-0 after the top of the first inning. Emma Bacigalupo unleashed a bomb into left-center field, and Lindsey LeBlanc and Sadey Lehtomaki each singled in their next at-bats. The Hawks managed to get out of the inning down just 2-0, and their defense locked the Bears down for the next three innings. 

The Hawks tied the game in their first inning at-bat, and scored at least a run in all six innings they played, a welcome change after a recent slump at the plate. Isabelle Palmisano went 3-for-4 at the plate and drilled in two RBIs, and Laynie Bailey and Taylor Barry each collected two hits; Bailey also had two RBIs and Barry scored twice.

Hopkins led 5-2 after four innings, and though its showing at the plate was impressive, what gave it the edge over Athol came defensively. The infield made the right plays to keep Athol from advancing its runners around the bases, and Dyjach led the outfield with a couple of awe-inspiring catches to keep her team safely in front.

“We work every single practice with our outfielders. Anna’s been an outfielder for the past few years, so she's a little more experienced at seeing the ball and has played center field for two years,” Hopkins head coach Paula Cristoforo said. “This (was) a total team effort – it's everybody making the plays. There's someone who might have a spectacular catch this inning but someone else is making a double play in the next inning. I think our defense is really strong for a young team.”

On Athol’s side, LeBlanc did everything she could to keep her team in the mix. She blasted a two-run homer to make it a 5-4 game in the top of the fifth, bringing the Bears back within striking distance. She also picked up a double, finishing the game with four hits and five RBIs, and struck out seven batters in six innings. 

“Lindsey's our only pitcher. She's a phenomenal pitcher. We've rode her arm all season long,” Chauvette said. “I can't say enough about Lindsey. You know her bat’s strong, her pitching is strong. We’ve just got to come with it every game, and today we really didn’t.”

It wasn’t for lack of effort from Athol – besides LeBlanc’s impressive play, Bacigalupo picked up two hits and scored three runs, and Kennedy Vaillancourt added two hits of her own.

Despite the comeback attempt, Hopkins held on to get the win for senior Gabby Dyjach. The hosts put together a three-run fifth inning to make it 8-4. Athol scored twice in the sixth and once in the seventh, but Hopkins added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth and held off the Bears late. 

“We were up every inning, we were never down, (we were) always cheering for everyone,” Anna Dyjach said. “I think that we all had each other's backs no matter who was up, no matter who made the play. If someone was down, we got their back.”

Both teams qualified for the upcoming Western Mass. tournaments, set to begin next week.


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