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Greenfield slips past Red Raiders, 3-1

  • Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield pitcher Olivia Joy (10) throws against Athol in the top of the sixth inning Monday afternoon at Vets Field in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield's Gianna Conte (28) hits in the bottom of the fifth inning against Athol on Monday afternoon in Greenfield, June 11, 2018. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield’s Kirsten Ward (21) congratulates Samantha Smith (9) after scoring in the bottom of the sixth inning against Athol Monday afternoon at Vets Field in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield's Samantha Smith (9) triples in the bottom of the sixth inning against Athol on Monday afternoon in Greenfield, June 11, 2018. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield third baseman Audrey Bresciano (4) throws to first for an out against Athol in the top of the seventh inning on Monday afternoon in Greenfield, June 11, 2018. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Athol pitcher Lindsey LeBlanc (9) throws against Greenfield in the bottomo of the fourth inning on Monday afternoon in Greenfield, June 11, 2018. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Athol shortstop Haley Bigwood (6) throws to first for an out against Greenfield inning on Monday afternoon in Greenfield, June 11, 2018. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield shortstop Samantha Smith (9) throws out an Athol runner at first base in the top of the fourth inning Monday afternoon at Vets Field in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little



For the Recorder
Monday, June 11, 2018

GREENFIELD — After some 2½ weeks between games, top-seeded Greenfield High School was anxious to play somebody — anybody — in its first game of the Western Massachusetts Division II Softball Tournament.

Athol High School, the eighth seed, provided the opposition in Monday’s quarterfinal-round game at Veterans Memorial Field, coming off a pair of shutout losses to the Green Wave during the regular season. Yet the third meeting proved a tight and grinding affair, with both pitchers in control, before a late sixth-inning uprising lifted the hosts to a 3-1 victory and a trip to UMass’ Sortino Field.

Greenfield junior Olivia Joy and Athol eighth-grader Lindsay LeBlanc matched zeroes for the first 5½ innings Monday, but the Wave (17-2) finally broke through in its half of the sixth. Samantha Smith led off with a triple to the base of the left-center field fence. After a popup, Lizzy Howland sent a fly ball to very short right field, and a collision between Red Raider fielders allowed the ball to roll free toward the right-field line. Smith came home with the lead run while Howland ended up at third.

Kirsten Ward then tripled to deep center field, plating Howland, and Raegan Hickey’s grounder to short brought in Ward with the third run. Gianna Conte added a single for the Wave before Heather Catlin popped to short.

Athol (13-9) pushed back hard in its last ups, getting a leadoff double to left-center by Haley Bigwood. After an out, Bigwood advanced to third on a wild pitch by Joy, and eighth-grader Sadey Lehtomaki reached when her grounder to short was thrown away while Bigwood scored the Red Raiders’ first run. Joy then bore down and induced a popup and groundout to end the game.

“It’s really hard to simulate a game, it’s just not the same,” said Green Wave coach Rian Lovett of her team’s long layoff since the regular-season finale on May 24. “This is by far the worst hitting game we’ve had, but I knew it would be tough, because we only beat them 3-0 last time when (LeBlanc) pitched. I just didn’t think it was going to take us until the sixth inning to score.”

Joy, who threw a perfect game in Greenfield’s 12-0 win over Athol on May 23, allowed three hits Monday while walking none and striking out three. She pitched four hitless innings before Lehtomaki led off the top of the fifth with an infield single; LeBlanc added a two-out single in the sixth for the Raiders. The first nine Athol batters each put the ball in play.

“We’ve just been playing some really good ball, which is nice to see,” said Athol coach Sharon Chauvette. “I can’t ask any more from a 13-year-old eighth-grader (LeBlanc). She’s become our No. 1 pitcher, and without her, we wouldn’t be here today.

“I liked the fact that we came ready to play. We swung the bats, put the ball in play, and that was key for us. When we knew we were playing Greenfield, we cranked up the pitching machine. (Joy) is a phenomenal pitcher, and the only way we’d have a chance is to hit the ball.”

Greenfield advanced to face fifth-seeded Hampshire Regional High School (11-8), a 7-0 winner over Easthampton High School Monday, in a Division II semifinal Thursday at 5 p.m. at Sortino Field.

In a game that breezed by in an hour and 13 minutes, Greenfield put runners on base in each of the first three innings. LeBlanc struck out the side in the second, three of the four strikeouts she recorded Monday, sandwiched around a pair of back-to-back walks. Raquel Provost came up with the Wave’s first hit, a single to right-center, leading off the home third before LeBlanc set down the next three batters.

Joy faced one batter over the minimum through the first five innings. Athol’s Jenna St. Cyr reached on an error to begin the third inning, stole second and took third on a fielder’s choice, but was stranded there. After Lehtomaki led off the Raiders’ fifth with an infield hit to the right side, she went to second on a groundout but was thrown out by catcher Howland trying to steal third.

“Let’s hope that we got this out of our system, and we can hit the ball better on Thursday,” said Lovett. “I think this was an eye-opener, that we’re not going to come out and dominate every game. We’re going to have to fight. We fought for seven innings today, we didn't hang our heads, and it took us six to get where we needed to go.”