Pierce 'A Rock' for Pittsfield in Quarter-Final Win

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. -- The Pittsfield softball team jumped out to a big lead, and pitcher Giuliana Pierce held back the East Longmeadow Spartans as the Generals earned a 5-3 Western Mass tournament win on Saturday afternoon.
Pierce struck out three and stranded four runners over the last two innings as sixth-seeded PHS (20-2) advanced to Wednesday’s Western Mass Division 1 semi-final at Sortino Field at the University of Massachusetts.
“It’s all part of the game, you know,” Pierce said after leaving the tying runs aboard in the sixth and seventh innings. “It’s definitely a little nerve-wracking. I want to do the best I can for the team. I want to keep everybody up.
“I just try my best to stay calm -- or at least look calm. Keep hitting my spots, keep pounding the zone and see what I can get.”
What she got Saturday was a five-run cushion before she stepped into the circle.
Brittney Perkett led off the game with a single, and Natasha Shade followed with a hit before Hayley Tobin doubled. Madison Tobin and Brianna each hit safely before the inning was through and the Generals had a 5-0 lead.
Even after the No. 3 Spartans (15-6) answered with a three-run homer over the short left field fence at Birchland Park Middle School and put two runners on with a pair of two-out errors in the bottom of the sixth, PHS coach Greg Marchbanks knew that Pierce could handle the pressure.
“She’s going to stay calm,” Marchbanks said. “She’s our rock right there. She’s been tested. We’ve gone all the way out to Kingston and played [2016 South finalist] Silver Lake, and they can swing it.
“We had a 4-3 game and a 12-8 game there. That 4-3 game -- way back at the beginning of the season -- got her ready for this moment. And we’ve had several games like that.”
Pierce ended East Longmeadow’s threats in both the sixth and seventh on comebackers to the circle.
The seventh inning started with a single to left, and after a sacrifice bunt and a strikeout, the Spartans got another single to put runners at the corners with two out and the top of the order coming around.
Pierce got the Spartans’ leadoff hitter to bounce back up the middle and fielded the ball easily, tossing to Sarah McMahon at first to end the game.
Pittsfield now awaits the winner of Monday’s quarter-final between No. 10 Chicopee Comp (9-12) and No. 2 Agawam (15-5). In the regular season finale, the Generals blanked Agawam, 4-0 -- further evidence that Pittsfield’s No. 6 seeding is deceptive to say the least.
“The seeding is the seeding,” Marchbanks said. “Do we feel we’re better than a 6? Of course, we do. But I understand our league and the strength of schedule and how the Walker System works. It doesn’t work to our advantage. Down here, they have 16 or 18 D1 games that they played. We can get nine, and we’re traveling all over the place.
“It makes it a little tougher, but you’ve got to play everyone and beat everyone in the tournament anyway.”
And if it provides a little extra motivation, that can’t hurt either.
“I think it was good for us,” Pierce said of the seeding. “A lot of us were upset, but it kind of lit a fire in our belly and made us stay hungry.”
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