AMHERST, Mass. -- The McCann Tech softball team Saturday went to UMass-Amherst hoping for “Hoosiers.”
They had to settle for “Rocky.”
Going against a true heavyweight of Massachusetts softball, the underdog Hornets were expected by a lot of observers to be ripe for a knockout.
Instead, McCann Tech went the distance, trailing Turners Falls by just two runs going into the fifth inning before succumbing, 4-0, in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 title game.
Sophomore Jade Tyler struck out 12 to lead the Thunder to their sixth straight sectional title and a chance for a fourth state title in five years.
“Like I just told the girls, not a lot of teams have stayed with Turners Falls over the years,” McCann Tech coach Robin Finnegan said.
Turners Falls won its first two playoff games by a combined margin of 26-5. Last year, it outscored three playoff opponents, 36-6; the year before, it was 32-2 over three games.
On Saturday, the Thunder came in with a record of 20-2. The two losses? To eventual Western Mass D1 champion Minnechaug and Central Mass D1 finalist Wachusett -- each by scores of 1-0.
“Everybody’s like, ‘Oh my God, Turners Falls, Turners Falls,’ and I gave the girls a little speech on the bus from, ‘Miracle,’ “ Finnegan said, pulling in a third David vs. Goliath movie reference. “They tried their best, and we’re very proud, and I’m proud of them.”
The Thunder struck in the bottom of the first on Saturday morning at Sortino Field.
Turners Falls got a two-out walk and an Alyson Murphy double to score a run. An outfield error sent Murphy to third, but McCann Tech’s Megan Goyette got the the next hitter to ground out to Nichole Demastrie a third to end the threat.
Goyette then worked her way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second by getting a popout to Demastrie and a grounder to Hannah Stack at short to keep it 1-0.
Turners broke through again for a run in the fourth. A walk, a stolen base and a couple of errors allowed Catie Reynolds to give the Thunder a two-run cushion.
“I knew that, defensively, we needed to play an A-plus, plus game, and, unfortunately, that didn’t happen,” said Finnegan, whose team finished with seven errors. “Turners Falls is a great program. However, I do think we beat ourselves a little bit in the field. And that pitcher was a fantastic pitcher, so we had trouble hitting her, but we also stranded like six or seven runners when we did get on base.”
Goyette, meanwhile, stranded 10 Turners runners in six innings of work.
But the Thunder managed to push across a couple of insurance runs in the fifth, when it used just its second and third hits of the game to make it 4-0.
Tyler took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but Aubrey Tetlow broke that up by dropping an infield single between the circle and first base with two out. Courtesy runner Kylie Hyde stole second, and Hailey Miller moved her to third with a single up the middle.
But Tyler closed the door with a strikeout and ended the game with a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
Turners Falls moves on to play Hopedale on Tuesday at UMass-Amherst in the state semi-finals.
McCann Tech (18-6) still has one game left to play, in the State Vocational Small School Division Championship at Norfolk Aggie.
It will be the Hornets’ second-straight trip to the State Voc final. Saturday’s Western Mass final was, perhaps, the more impressive feat.
“It meant a lot to us, especially because we got pretty far last year, when we lost in the semi-finals,” Tetlow said. “It meant a lot, especially for our seniors because it’s one more game we get to play and play a really good team like Turners Falls.
“It’s great to have the opportunity. We went in knowing how good they are. We played the hardest we could, and we accept the loss. We took it respectfully. They’re a great team.”
Tetlow is part of a great senior class for Finnegan that includes Kalley Vanuni, Ayrian Quinones, Chasity Little, Demastrie and Goyette.
“When it’s all said and done, I’m so proud of these girls for getting this far,” Finnegan said. “No one ever expected us to do it, and we did it, and I can’t be happier.”