Athol softball erases deficit, stuns Taconic, 7-5

For the Recorder 
Published: 6/18/2021 9:47:38 PM
Modified: 6/18/2021 9:47:48 PM

ATHOL — The situation looked pretty bleak for the Athol softball team.

The Bears faced a 5-0 deficit in the fifth inning against visiting Taconic in the first round of the Western Mass. Division 2 Tournament on Friday afternoon.

The seventh-seeded Bears got a spark from Emma Bacigalupo and collectively carried the momentum to a 7-5 comeback win over the No. 10 Braves.

“They really do have a lot of determination and drive,” Athol coach Sharon Chauvette said of her team. “When we’re down, I just told them they needed to want it.”

Athol advanced to play No. 2 Sabis in the Div. 2 quarterfinals on Monday in Springfield.

“We will do our homework on them this weekend and give it a go,” Chauvette said.

The atmosphere around the field seemed pretty quiet until Bacigalupo flashed some leather at shortstop in the top of the fifth inning. Bacigalupo snared a hard hit line drive by Taconic’s Julia Pierce and launched a precision throw to first base to double up a runner who had left the base.

The play increased the chatter for the Bears, and they began their comeback in the bottom half of the inning.

Bacigalupo's RBI single in the bottom of the sixth plated two runs and tied the game for the Bears. After Bacigalupo's hit tied the contest, Athol pushed across the go-ahead runs on wild pitches.

“We feed off of each other,” Bacigalupo said. “We feed off the energy. We are really good when it comes to that. Once one hit comes we are all fired up and that's where the hits come from.”

The core of the Athol softball team has played together for a long time.

“We all played in middle school together,” Bacigalupo said. “We have that connection and we know each other so well.”

The Bears scored three runs in the fifth inning to get back into the game. With two outs, Bacigalupo drew a walk and got to third after a stolen base and a passed ball. Lindsey LeBlanc then drew another walk before an RBI ground out by Sadey Lehtomaki. Lexi Forte followed with another RBI hit to cut the deficit to 5-3.

In the circle, LeBlanc got comfortable when her team started hitting to pick up the win for the Bears.

“Whenever we get down, we lift each other up,” LeBlanc said. “No matter how bad we do, we don't stop fighting until the end of the game.”

LeBlanc gave up seven hits, five runs and struck out four in the complete game victory. She set Taconic down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh on three straight ground balls to seal the win.

“We had some shaky spots,” LeBlanc said. “But when we came back and got those three runs, those were huge. That showed us we could come back.”

The Bears had not seen Taconic since LeBlanc's freshman season.

“They are a completely different team,” LeBlanc said. “They showed up and started hitting. But it's always fun because it's a team that's not in our area. We don't get to play them a lot. It was good competition.”

Jenna Bonenfant had two hits including a double for the Bears. Reily Polana added a run scored and a stolen base.

Athol faced a sharp pitcher in Rylee Paronto, who struck out eight. Paronto lost her stuff a bit in the fifth and sixth inning and ended up allowing six hits and six walks over six innings.

“She was very good,” LeBlanc said of Paronto. “I was a little nervous coming into it.”

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