Minnechaug Edges Pittsfield in Division 1 Final
AMHERST, Mass. -- For the Pittsfield softball team Saturday, bad things came in threes.
Three, as in the number of runs scored by Minnechaug in a 3-1 win over the Generals in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 title game.
Three, as in the third inning, where the Falcons scored all their runs.
Three, as in the paltry number of hits allowed by Chaug pitcher Katelyn Thompson, whose number, of course, is No. 3.
But three also brought some good for the Generals.
Three is the total number of losses PHS suffered in a stellar 20-3 campaign.
And, perhaps most importantly, Saturday marked Pittsfield’s third straight trip to the Western Mass championship game.
“They just echoed what’s expected now,” Pittsfield coach Greg Marchbanks said. “They set a standard about two or three years ago. And these seniors continued with a standard of coming in every year ready, working hard in the off-season and expecting to be right back there with no doubts.
“They knew they were going to be back here, and they kept fighting and fighting and fighting, even when we lost three major players last year. We had three new players step up and do just as well.”
On Saturday, first-seeded Minnechaug (19-2) was just a little bit better.
The Falcons applied pressure early, getting two runners into scoring position with nobody out in the second inning.
But Pittsfield’s Tess Lyon got a ground ball to Sarah McMahon at first, a popup to McMahon and a grounder to Brianna Clary at third to end the threat.
In the third inning, Chaug took advantage when its leadoff hitter reached on an error.
Three straight singles followed that error to get a pair of runs across. And a sacrifice fly made it 3-0.
But Lyon avoided further damage when second baseman Natasha Shade grabbed a grounder that deflected off Lyon, tagged out a runner coming from first and fired to McMahon to complete a double play.
It stayed 3-0 until the fifth.
That is when Lyon reached on an outfield error with one out and came all the way around when Szofia Lewis doubled to center field. Lewis was gunned down at third attempting to stretch the hit into a triple, and Thompson got the final out one batter later.
Pittsfield had one more baserunner, when McMahon hit a two-out single in the sixth, but the Generals could not move her over.
Thompson, who struck out nine in the win, ended with a flourish, striking out the side in the top of the seventh.
“She mixes it up well,” Marchbanks said of the Minnechaug senior. “She throws a rise, she throws in the zone hard with good speed. And then she has that changeup.
“We were right on it. We missed a couple with some fly balls, and then we had some good hits. They didn’t make any mistakes. We made a couple, and that’s the game.”
Minnechaug’s next game is on Tuesday or Wednesday back at UMass’ Sortino Field against the Central Mass champions.
Pittsfield returns most of its roster for another run at the sectional final in 2020, but on Saturday said goodbye to seniors Brooke Cowlin, Elise Wellman, Lyon, Shade, Clary and McMahon.
“They’re used to beating people by a lot,” Marchbanks said of Minnechaug. “We’re used to beating people by a lot. And it came down to defense today, and we had some great plays. They made some great plays. A two-run game. That’s a good game.
“They should be keeping their heads high and be proud of exactly where they got to.”