Drury Keeps Fighting, Falls to Green Wave in Quarters

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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GREENFIELD, Mass. -- The Greenfield softball team Saturday used a pair of home runs and powerful performance in the circle to end Drury's run in the Division 5 State Tournament.
Carly Blanchard hit a three-run shot over the fence, and Brielle Widelo raced around the bases for an inside-the-park round-tripper as the defending state champions kept their hopes for a repeat alive with an 8-1 win in the quarter-finals.
Greenfield got 11 strikeouts from pitcher Mackenzie Paulin, who allowed just two hits in leading her team to Tuesday's semi-final matchup against the winner of Sunday's game between Tahanto and West Boylston.
Eighth-seeded Drury (17-6) saw its season come to an end but showed the kind of determination that propelled it deep into the state tourney.
"These kids never gave up," Drury coach Michelle Darling said. "Ever. The whole season.
"We started off really hot, and then we had a loss, but they never gave up. They didn't give up against Greylock. They didn't give up today. They have a lot of heart."
The Blue Devils needed to show some grit after the Green Wave stormed out to a 3-0 lead in its first turn at bat.
The first two Greenfield hitters reached ahead of Blanchard, who launched a two-strike pitch over the fence in center field to give Paulin a three-run cushion.
Drury pitcher Olivia Perry gave up a double to the next Greenfield hitter but struck out the next three in order to strand a runner in scoring position.
And she did not allow another run until Widelo's solo homer with wo out in the bottom of the fourth.
"She was just warming up, she told me she was fine," Darling said of Perry's first inning. "And then she settled in and struck out some people and held them for a long time.
"I'm happy with my kids. They scored, so it wasn't a shutout. And we got a hit, so it wasn't a no-hitter."
The first Drury hit came in the top of the fifth when Michelle Wood reached on an infield single off Paulin's glove. The throw to first went wild, allowing Wood to reach second with two out. But Paulin got the next hitter on a called third strike to keep it a 4-0 lead.
She then contributed an RBI single in a two-run bottom of the fifth to stretch the lead to 6-0.
But Drury got on the board in the top of the sixth.
Maddie Saunders started things out by reaching on a bunt single. She then went first-to-third on Ariana Rivard's sacrifice bunt. A pitch that went to the backstop allowed Saunders to score and get the Blue Devils within five at 6-1.
But Paulin retired the next five hitters in a row, including striking out the side in the seventh, and Greenfield tacked on a couple of runs in the sixth.
With only two players, Rachael Barrows and Kaley Bushika, graduating from this year's squad, Darling is looking forward to 2024, when the Blue Devils can try to build what she characterizes as "a season of firsts."
"The core is back, which is amazing," Darling said. "Rachael has been with me for five years, since she started in the eighth grade. And other kids started in the seventh and eighth grade. I'm happy they're coming back. We'll be here."
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