Greenfield Edges Wahconah in Sectional Quarter-Final
DALTON, Mass. -- The Wahconah softball team rode lights-out pitching and a potent offense to a sterling 12-1 record in the regular season.
It failed to score at least five runs just once going into Monday’s Western Massachusetts Division 2 quarter-finals.
Greenfield pitcher Gianna Conte made that twice.
Conte struck out six and left the tying run on base in the bottom of the seventh to lead the Green Wave to a 2-1 win over third-seeded Wahconah (13-2) in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 quarter-finals.
Wahconah managed just six hits and strung together multiple hits in an inning just once as it lost for the first time since a 2-0 setback at Drury back in the May 8 season opener.
Coach Dustin Belcher said it was fair to ask whether the all-Berkshire County schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of independent games to find tougher pitching led to Monday’s problems against Greenfield (11-2).
“We do see some of the better pitching, right?” Belcher asked. “I think [Hoosac Valley’s Madi Puppolo] and [Pittsfield’s Jordynn Bazinet]. But you’re right. I mean, not to see it every day.
“I thought we did OK. Julia Trager’s ball in the sixth inning was a bomb. The Greenfield right fielder was playing deep. Any other park, that’s probably out.”
Instead, the Green Wave’s Brielle Widelo was able to chase down the towering fly in deep right to leave a runner at second to end the sixth inning and protect Greenfield’s one-run lead.
It took that lead in the first inning when the leadoff hitter was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on an RBI single to make it 1-0.
Wahconah’s Avery Vale-Cruz clamped down from there, striking out 12 and not allowing another earned run the rest of the way.
In the top of the third, the visitors generated an unearned run to pad their lead.
Kaitlin Lavoine singled and went all the way around the bases on an outfield error to give her team a two-run advantage.
Wahconah battled back in the fifth to cut the lead in half.
Casey Wilson singled up the middle and went to third on Kaylee O’Bryan’s single to right. Vale-Cruz then helped her cause with a single to left to drive in a run.
But Conte closed the door, leaving two runners on base by getting a fly ball to center and a strikeout to end the inning.
Wahconah challenged again in the sixth. Pinch-hitter Ella Quinto reached on an error and moved up on Emma Belcher’s sacrifice bunt. But an infield fly and then Trager’s deep fly to right kept it a 2-1 game.
Greenfield advances to Wednesday’s semi-finals, where it will host Athol, a 5-0 upset winner over second-seeded Sabis on Monday.
Wahconah will take some solace from a Berkshire County North Division title and the knowledge it allowed just 17 runs in 15 games this spring.
Coach Belcher was quick to credit his seniors for helping make that run possible.
“They did a great job,” he said. “What a tough, tough assignment, coming in after the COVID stuff. And knowing what we would have had a year ago if we had had a season. We had real high expectations a year ago.
“So these four [seniors] had to come in as the only four returners in the whole program and really rally a young group. We lose the first game up at Drury, and those four seniors did an incredible job putting it back on track to win the Northern Division and have a great season.”