AMHERST, Mass. -- Tuesday’s Western Mass Division 3 softball semi-final between McCann Tech and Mount Everett all came down to two words: base running.
The Eagles used their speed on the basepaths when they needed it the most. The Hornets made a couple of critical mistakes in the running game in a 3-2 Mount Everett win.
With two out and a tie game in the bottom of the seventh, Gwendolyn Carpenter reached on an error, stole second and then stole third on the next pitch. The throw to third got went into left field, allowing Carpenter to score and send the Eagles back to the sectional final for the second year in a row.
“That’s just good base running by Gwendolyn,” Mount Everett coach Kurt DeGrenier said. “But with two outs, I’m going to send her at each base.”
Her dash to home plate spoiled a McCann Tech comeback to tie the game in the top of the sixth after trailing, 2-1, most of the afternoon.
It also sent the Eagles back to Sortino Field on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s Western Mass final. Top-seeded and four-time defending champion Turners Falls (19-3) held up its end of the bargain in Wednesday’s nightcap when it defeated Mount Greylock, 12-3, in the other D3 semi-final.
Third-seeded McCann Tech (18-5) matched Mount Everett in hits but stranded seven runners and, in the sixth and seventh innings, ran into outs that changed the complexion of the game.
“We played well enough defensively to win,” McCann Tech coach Robin Finnegan said. “We could have hit the ball better, but they have a good pitcher.
“We lost this game. Don’t get me wrong. Mount Everett has a great team. But our two base running errors hurt us. It’s something we’ve got to learn from.”
Finnegan said her young Hornets were loose going into the program’s first Final Four in her 12 years at the school.
“The weren’t nervous,” she said. “I was. But they weren’t. It’s just the mental aspect of the game, and as they get some more experience, that will work itself out.
“I have every intention of being back here next year.”
Mount Everett, a regular visitor to UMass in early June, jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning.
Hannah Race got things started with a leadoff single to left. She moved up on a groundout and scored on Sarah Beckwith’s double down the line in right for the tying run.
McCann Tech’s Megan Goyette got the next batter swinging, but the Hornets were momentarily confused about the number of outs in the inning, and Beckwith went to third. In an precursor of things to come, an errant throw to third allowed Beckwith to come home and give the Eagles the lead.
The Hornets, who used a Goyette RBI single to score the game’s first run in the top of the second, got an unearned run of their own in the top of the sixth to tie the game.
Mount Everett pitcher Faith Angell walked the leadoff hitter, but she was erased trying to steal second base. Aubrey Tetlow then drew a walk and came all the way around to score from first on an error on Aimee Dowling’s sacrifice bunt.
“I’m proud we dug it out and got to the Western Mass finals, but I’m not excited [about the top of the sixth],” DeGrenier said. “We’ve been, historically, a team that doesn’t give up on a play.
“A base hit or a bad throw, fine. Get the ball in and get ready for the next play. Don’t be upset, and the next thing you know a girl goes from first to home on a bunt. We’ve got to clean that up.”
That goes double against Mount Everett’s next opponent.
“I know what to expect from Turners Falls,” DeGrenier said. “They don’t give you any game. You’ve got to play seven strong innings to beat them.
“[Gary Mullins] and the coaching staff are wonderful, and the players are wonderful. So you have to show up and play seven straight innings to beat them.”