Armold Homer, Julieano Pitching Lift Lenox into Sweet 16
SHEFFIELD, Mass. – Hailey Armold was just looking for a hit.
She delivered, perhaps, the biggest hit in the history of the Lenox softball program.
Armold led off the top of the seventh inning by crushing a pitch over the fence in left field to break a 6-6 tie and sent the Millionaires on to a 7-6 win over Mount Everett in the Division 5 State Tournament Round of 32.
“Honestly, I was just looking to hit the ball, because I knew we needed a base hit,” Armold said after hitting her sixth round-tripper of the spring. “That’s all we need. We need multiple base hits.
“And I hear Ella [Hall] in the background, and she told me to hit a home run. And I guess that’s just what happened.”
The victory sends 19th-seeded Lenox (13-8) into Wednesday’s Sweet 16 game at perennial power and third-seeded Turners Falls (15-7), a 15-0 winner over Bristol County Aggie on Monday.
The Thunder, which won its 10th state title in 2021 and went to the D5 semi-finals a year ago, knows all about playing softball in June.
Lenox? Not as much.
“This is huge for the program,” Lenox coach Amy Pires said. “We haven’t been in Western Mass or states in probably, at least, 20 years – or even the whole entire program. This is huge.
“We’re going to go face the Western Mass champion Turners Falls now, and we’ll just take it game-by-game. … I’m just very, very proud of them, getting this far from where we were last year. We were 4-14. So this year is just a complete 180, and I’m very proud of these girls.”
Monday’s win did a couple of 180s as well.
Lenox jumped out to an early lead with two runs in the first and three in the second.
Aliza Munch and Evelyn Julieano started the game by earning back-to-back walks, and each scored – Munch on an RBI single by Armold (4-for-4, three RBIs) and Julieano on a groundout by Amaya Alger.
In the second inning, Munch doubled in a run and Grace Julieano hit a two-run single up the middle to give Lenox a 5-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Evelyn Julieano pitched her way out of trouble in the second and third innings, stranding runners at third base in each inning to keep the Eagles (13-8) off the board.
Four times in the first two innings, Julieano got an out on a comebacker to the mound, including a pair of groundouts to end the second with runners on second and third.
“She played really hard,” Armold, the Millionaires’ catcher, said of Julieano. “She got a bunch of balls. I think she fielded at least six or seven. And she really toughed it out in the last inning because she was hurt. I’ve been with her for a long time, she’s a really great pitcher. She plays really hard every single game, and I’m really proud of her this season.”
But the game took its first 180 degree turn in the bottom of the fourth.
Emma Goewey led off the inning with a double to right center, the first of four Mount Everett hits in a four-run rally that included RBI singles from Tonilyn Smith and Julia Devoti to cut the deficit to 6-4.
“We battled back,” Mount Everett coach Joshua King said. “I think us having that gap between playing in the [Western Mass] semi-finals at Turners [on May 25] and not having anything in between – that’s a lot of time off, and there are a lot of senior events and everything.
“II think it’s one of those things where, once we got rolling, we started playing our softball. Those middle innings, that’s who we are, who we were all season – making plays, getting quality hits when we needed to.”
In the fifth, Julieano got Goewey on a comebacker to the circle to start the inning, but Makayla Carpenter followed with a solo home run to cut the margin to one run.
With two out, Aliyah Creamer dropped a single into right, and Meg Loring followed with an RBI double to tie the game, 6-6.
Lenox could get nothing going with the top of the order up against Devoti (six strikeouts, four walks) in the top of the sixth.
Mount Everett got a single from Emily Steuernagle to start the bottom of the sixth, but she was erased when yet another comebacker found Julieano to start a 1-6-3 double play.
Allison Steuernagle reached on an infield single to bring up Goewey with a chance to break the tie. She pounded a shot up the middle that found Julieano’s leg, but the Lenox pitcher recovered, grabbed the ball and fired to first to get the out and end the inning.
“She’s an incredible, incredible player,” Pires said of Julieano. “Seventh-grader. And she’s carried our team. She fields her position very well. Of course, that last one by Emma Goewey was tough on the shins. It got her on both shins. But she walked it off, got a little ice on the sideline, and then came out and got the win.
“She’s awesome up the middle. It’s been a game-changer having her here this season.”
After Armold’s solo shot to open the top of the seventh, Lenox put two more runners on before Devoti closed the door, inducing a ground ball to Emily Steuernagle at short.
In the bottom of the inning, Smith reached on a one-out single to give Mount Everett life. But Julieano got the next hitter to fly out to Anna Nealon at third.
Then, the game ended with one more defensive touch by Julieano: a ground ball up the middle that she got a glove on and slowed down for shortstop Munch, who fired to Hall at second to catch Smith and end the game.