Greenfield wins Div. 5 state softball championship with 6-2 win over West Boylston
By THOMAS JOHNSTON
Published: 6/17/2022 8:52:02 PM
AMHERST — The 2022 Greenfield softball team etched its name in the history books on Friday.
The Green Wave entered the MIAA Div. 5 state tournament as the No. 1 seed and looked the part, knocking the ball around at the plate en route to its state final appearance on Friday against No. 3 West Boylston. The Lions, however, weren’t going to go down easy.
West Boylston opened the game by scoring two runs in the first inning. Those would be the only runs it would get off Greenfield’s MacKenzie Paulin, and the Green Wave bats came alive to score six runs in the fourth inning to take back control of the game. Greenfield rode that big inning to the end, taking home the Div. 5 title with a 6-2 victory at Sortino Field at UMass.
It’s the first state championship the Greenfield softball team has ever won.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Paulin said. “I feel so good. As a team, we’ve accomplished so much this year. We deserve it and I’m proud of all of us.”
The Green Wave entered the fourth inning trailing by the two runs, but their red-hot bats had suddenly gone cold to start the game. Carly Blanchard changed that, knocking a single off West Boylston hurler Peyton Maloney to give Greenfield its first hit of the game.
Like a good shooter in basketball, the Green Wave just had to see one go in before catching fire. Paulin flew out on the next at-bat but senior Kelsey Richardson ripped a double to put runners on second and third.
Rachel Dodge went to the plate and cracked a second consecutive double, scoring Blanchard and Richardson to knot the game 2-2.
“I knew eventually we’d get to her,” Greenfield coach John Hickey said. “She was throwing really hard those first three innings but then started to slow down. I think the heat got to her a little maybe. We stopped swinging at high pitches, which was helping her out. We started swinging at things in the zone. The pitches we hit were all there.”
The avalanche of hits continued. Ainslee Flynn drilled a triple to score Dodge and give the Green Wave their first lead of the game. Anna Bucala then hit a single to bring Flynn home to make it a 4-2 game.
Amber Bergeron got on with a single, her and Bucala both stole a base to put runners on second and third for Kaitlin Lavoine, and the senior came through to break the game open. Lavoine smashed a single up the middle to score Bucala and Bergeron, giving Greenfield a 6-2 cushion going into the fifth inning.
“I just went up there trying to hit the ball as hard as I could and make contact,” Lavoine said. “I hit it up the middle and was able to bring those two runs in.”
Paulin was brilliant in the circle from that point on, allowing two hits the rest of the way and not allowing the Lions to get back in the game.
“It lit a little more fire in me,” Paulin said of the big fourth inning. “I knew we had it if I just kept doing what I was doing after that.”
West Boylston opened the scoring in the first, with Madison Pitro getting things started with a double. Maloney got on with a walk and Pitro stole third in the process to put runners on the corners. Lucy Allen grounded to third but an error on the throw to second allowed Maloney to score, giving the Eagles the first run of the game.
Maloney took third on the error and scored following a Kaitlin Flaherty groundout to give West Boylston a 2-0 lead.
“There were definitely nerves on our part,” Hickey said. “Generally, we make those plays easily. It is what it is. It happened, you just have to forge forward and we did.”
Paulin finished the game by surrendering just four hits, striking out three and walking just two batters.
“She gets stronger as the game goes on,” Hickey said of Paulin. “She did today. She had three pitches over 60 (miles per hour). She was bringing it in, she had good control. She only gave up two hits before that final inning. She was solid as usually. We’re excited for three more years of her.”
The Green Wave nearly added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth after Dodge got on with a single and Flynn ripped a double to put runners on second and third, but Maloney got Bucala to ground out to end the inning.
The Lions had their best chance of getting back in the game in the top of the sixth. Maloney got on with a single, but was thrown out at second off a fielders choice that put Kaitlin Flaherty on first. An error off the bat of Riely Eagan put runners on second and third with two outs, but Paulin got Olivia Downer to strike out to close out the inning.
Shannen Luksha got on with a two-out single in the top of the seventh for West Boylston but Paulin got Pitro to fly out, sealing the state title for Greenfield.
“It feels very special,” Lavoine said. “I’m honored to be one of the first champions. We all get along so well. Everything came together perfectly.”