Turners' Liimatainen Overpowers Lee in Western Mass Final

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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WESTFIELD, Mass. – Turners Falls’ Madi Liimatainen struck out 21 Lee Wildcats on Wednesday to lead the Thunder to a 3-0 win in the championship game of the Western Massachusetts Class D Tournament.
Since one of those Wildcats, Karalynn Hopkins, reached on a dropped third strike in the top of the first inning, Liimatainen needed 22 outs to get through the complete-game victory, and she took care of that by fielding a comebacker to the circle and firing to first to retire Hopkins for the only non-strikeout out recorded by the Thunder.
Liimatainen limited Lee to just two hits, both in the top of the sixth of a 0-0 game, and she got out of a bases-loaded jam with, of course, a K.
The dominating performance made a hard-luck loser of Lee’s Bri Lynch, who struck out 16 and did not allow an earned run but still saw Lee’s 10-game winning streak come to an end.
Lynch pitched with runners on base in four of the six innings.
In the bottom of the second, Turners catcher Holly Myers led off with an infield single, and her courtesy runner stole second base before going to third on a ground ball out. But Lynch struck out the next two Thunder hitters to leave her on third base.
In the fourth, Myers doubled and went all the way to third on an error with two out, but again Lynch got the strikeout she needed to end the inning.
And in the fifth, Turners got a runner to second base with two out, but Lynch got a swinging third strike to end the inning and keep it 0-0.
Lee then mounted its best scoring chance of the day.
Lynch got things started by reaching on an error. She then moved up on back-to-back singles by Hopkins – who broke up Liimatainen’s no-hit bid – and Taryn Bannon to load the bases. But Turners Falls’ Ace ended the threat.
Unfortunately for Lee, that scoring opportunity – like all its scoring chances – started with two out. Liimatainen retired the first two batters she faced in the first, fourth, sixth and seventh – the four innings when Lee got a runner on base. She struck out the side in order in the other three innings.
Turners Falls broke a scoreless tie with some two-out production of its own in the sixth.
Mia Marigliano led off the inning by reaching on an error. She stole second base and went to third on the play on another Lee error, putting the potential first run of the game 60 feet from the plate.
After Lynch struck out the next two hitters, Lee coach Steve Bannon opted to intentionally walk Myers, who was 2-for-2 with a double. The Thunder’s Madisyn Dietz then worked just the second walk of the game allowed by Lynch to load the bases.
Anne Kolodziej followed with an RBI single to the outfield. Hesitancy by the Lee defense allowed all three runners to score and Kolodziej to get to third base on the play. Lynch got the next out with a strikeout, but the damage was done.
In the seventh, Lee’s Brooke Delaguistina worked a walk with two out, but Liimatainen ended the game one hitter later.
Lee (16-3) moves on to the Division 5 State Tournament, where it is seeded 11th and awaits the winner of Friday’s play-in game between No. 22 Springfield International Charter (15-5) and Excel (8-6).
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