Div. 5 softball: Seeking 11th state title, Turners Falls set for title-game showdown with Georgetown

The Turners Falls softball team is introduced prior to Wednesday’s MIAA Division 5 semifinal win against Hopedale in Worcester. The second-seeded Thunder will meet No. 4 Georgetown in the state final on Saturday at noon at Sortino Field on the campus of UMass.

The Turners Falls softball team is introduced prior to Wednesday’s MIAA Division 5 semifinal win against Hopedale in Worcester. The second-seeded Thunder will meet No. 4 Georgetown in the state final on Saturday at noon at Sortino Field on the campus of UMass. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Turners Falls’ Mia Marigliano (14) rounds second and heads toward third base during state semifinal action against Hopedale on Wednesday in Worcester.

Turners Falls’ Mia Marigliano (14) rounds second and heads toward third base during state semifinal action against Hopedale on Wednesday in Worcester. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Turners Falls’ McKenzie Stafford (3) slides safely into second base during the Thunder’s semifinal win over Hopedale on Wednesday in Worcester.

Turners Falls’ McKenzie Stafford (3) slides safely into second base during the Thunder’s semifinal win over Hopedale on Wednesday in Worcester. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 06-14-2024 5:13 PM

You’d be hard pressed to find a softball team with more postseason experience than Turners Falls. 

The Thunder were an annual contender in the old MIAA state tournament format, winning 10 state titles — most in MIAA history. Their last championship came in 2021. 

Since the new statewide format started, Turners has been knocking on the door but hasn’t been able to get over the hump. In 2022 the Thunder fell in the semifinals to West Boylston and last year, Turners reached the championship game but fell to rival Greenfield. 

The Thunder have a chance to take home their 11th state title and first in the new format on Saturday, when second-seeded Turners takes on fourth-seeded Georgetown in the MIAA Div. 5 state championship game at Sortino Field on the campus of UMass. First pitch is set for noon. 

“You have different kids every year so it’s nice to see them get here,” longtime Thunder coach Gary Mullins said after Turners’ semifinal victory over Hopdale on Wednesday. “Our kids put a lot of time into this game. We still ask two hours, two and a half hours a day. They keep bringing it. The last couple days of practice have been very good. You have graduations, proms, all that stuff going on but our kids have been focused at practice. I think it really paid off.” 

Turners (20-5) reached the state championship game thanks to a 4-1 win over No. 3 Hopedale. The Thunder showed their postseason experience, not panicking when the Blue Raiders tied the game in the top of the sixth inning.

With all the momentum on Hopedale’s side after tying the game, Turners’ Janelle Massey opened the bottom of the frame by belting a triple. Freshman Addison Talbot drove her in with a base hit before the Thunder tacked on two more runs on walks and passed balls to take a 4-1 lead. That score stood as Turners advanced to their second straight championship game. 

When the games get tight at the end, having the depth of postseason experience the Thunder have to draw upon is crucial. In three years under the new tournament format, Turners is 11-2, and the club has found different ways to win along the way. 

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Along with winning back-to-back Western Mass. Class D titles, nothing that happens in a postseason game will surprise the Thunder. 

“It helps with our nerves because we’ve been in these situations before,” Massey said after the Hopedale win. “We know we can make it further. Actual playing-wise, it doesn’t make a difference. We play the same all the time.”

After missing the state tournament in 2022, Georgetown (15-6) earned the No. 17 seed in the dance last year, winning a pair of games before falling to the eventual champion Green Wave in the Round of 16. 

The Royals parlayed that postseason success into this campaign, entering the tournament with an 11-6 record to earn the No. 4 seed. 

It wasn’t smooth sailing for Georgetown to start the tournament. The Royals rallied to knock off 29th-seeded Gateway in the Round of 32 (8-6) and needed eight innings to beat 20th-seeded Wareham (3-2) in the Round of 16. 

Georgetown — a young roster with just one senior, no juniors, eight sophomores, three freshmen and four eighth graders — then turned it up a notch. The Royals hosted fifth-seeded Franklin Tech in the quarterfinals, raced out a 4-0 lead after one inning and held on from there, advancing with a 4-2 victory. 

Georgetown then took on eighth-seeded Tahanto — which was fresh off an upset win over No. 1 Greenfield in the quarterfinals — and pulled out a 4-2 victory to advance to Saturday’s championship game. 

On the season, the Royals have outscored their opponents 176-115. Of late, Georgetown has been keeping teams off the board, holding its opponents to 16 runs on its six-game win streak. For reference, a tough Franklin Tech lineup managed just two hits against the Royals. 

Saturday will be the first state championship game in Georgetown program history. In contrast, Turners will make its 20th finals appearance (10-9 all-time record), the most of any program in the state. Three programs are tied for the second-most title-game appearances with nine.

“I’ll do some homework on them,” Mullins said of Georgetownj after Wednesday’s win. “If you get that far, you have a pitcher. We’ll go from there. They beat a Tahanto team that knocked off Greenfield, who beat us twice. I have respect for them. We’ll give it a shot.” 

Turners has been lights out throughout the state tournament, outscoring opponents 46-19 in its four tournament games. 

Madi Liimataine n was dominant in the circle in both the quarterfinal game against Narragansett and the semifinals against Hopedale. She’ll look to keep it going against the Royals and take home a second state title, having been part of the 2021 state title team. 

After falling just short of making the finals in 2022 and losing in the championship game last year, Turners has plenty of motivation to get the job done Saturday. 

“I think it gives a little more fire and drive underneath you,” Liimatainen said after the win over Hopedale. “It gives a little more drive. Knowing we can get there but knowing we can do it is a whole different thing. I think we know we can do it.” 

While the Thunder will be fired up for the title game, it’s the work they’ve done all year that gives them confidence they can bring home their 11th state championship trophy. 

“Definitely extra motivation after last year,” Massey said. “I don’t think it increases our ability to make the plays because we already have that ability.”