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Peerless Powertown

  • Turners Falls' Abby Loynd, and Cassidhe Wozniak surround their pitcher Peyton Emery as she lets out a scream after striking out an Austin Prep batter in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat them in their Div. III state championship game at Worcester State University's Rockwood Field Saturday. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls starting and route-going winning pitcher Peyton Emery releases a pitch to Austin Prep Saturday afternoon during a dominating, 2-1 win over Austin Prep in the state Division III softball championship game at Worcester State University’s Rockwood Field Saturday. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls' Melissa Hersey bats against Austin Prep during their Div. III state championship game at Worcester State University's Rockwood Field Saturday, June 17, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Fall's Abby Loynd makes a catch for an out during their Div. III state championship game against Austin Prep at Worcester State University's Rockwood Field Saturday, June 17, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Jubilant Turners Falls teammates Aly Murphy and Cassidhe Wozniak celebrate after scoring the team’s first run Saturday during their state Division softball title win over Austin Prep at Worcester State University’s Rockwood Field. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls batter Gabby Arzuaga contributed a team-leading two hits and the first RBI Saturday during the Powertwon’s 2-1 state Division III softball championship win over Austin Prep at Worcester State University’s Rockwood Field Saturday afternoon. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls' pitcher Peyton Emery is embraced by her father and an assistant coach George Emery after defeating Austin Prep in their Div. III state championship game at Worcester State University's Rockwood Field Saturday, June 17, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls' Peyton Emery throws to Aly Murphy at first base for an out against Austin Prep during their Div. III state championship game at Worcester State University's Rockwood Field Saturday, June 17, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls' Jordyn Fiske bats against Austin Prep during their Div. III state championship game at Worcester State University's Rockwood Field Saturday, June 17, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls’ third baseman Abby Loynd grimaces as she makes a throw across the diamond to first baseman Aly Murphy Saturday afternoon during the Powertown’s state Division III softball championship game against Austin Prep at Worcester State University’s Rockwood Field. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls' Olivia Whittier bats against Austin Prep during their Div. III state championship game at Worcester State University's Rockwood Field Saturday, June 17, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls' Cassidhe Wozniak bats against Austin Prep during their Div. III state championship game at Worcester State University's Rockwood Field Saturday, June 17, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt



Recorder Staff
Saturday, June 17, 2017

WORCESTER — Never count out the Powertown.

Despite graduating key performers, including all-everything pitcher Mackenzie Phillips, from last year’s state-championship team, Turners Falls High School found itself right back in a familiar spot Saturday. For the third straight year, the blue and white reigned supreme in Division III softball, capturing a record-breaking ninth state title on the strength of a 2-1 win over Austin Preparatory School of Reading in the MIAA Div. III championship game at Worcester State University’s Rockwood Field.

The ninth championship puts Turners in sole possession of first place in MIAA history for softball titles. The program was tied with Bishop Fenwick of Peabody with eight championships before Saturday’s third consecutive title.

“It feels amazing,” said jubilant senior catcher Gabby Arzuaga afterward. “For our senior class to make it to the state final all four years and then win the last three… all four of us are ecstatic to end our careers like this.”

Junior pitcher Peyton Emery closed out a storybook season with yet another stellar outing. The first-year starter, who filled the huge loss of graduated Phillips, struck out five and walked just one while limiting Austin Prep (23-3), the North champions, to three lonely hits and one unearned run.

“People have doubted us from the beginning of the season, so to win the title, it feels so good to prove that we belonged here,” offered Emery.

It was a rematch of last year’s Div. III state-title game, which was also won by Turners Falls, 2-0. While the Powertown (23-2) managed just one hit in last year’s championship game, the squad wasted little time outdoing itself on Saturday. Sophomore shortstop Cassidhe Wozniak led off the top of the first with a single against Austin Prep junior pitcher Logan MacDonald, and Arzuaga followed with a rocket to the right-center-field power alley. The senior captain cruised into second base with a double, plating Wozniak for a 1-0 lead before many fans had even settled into their seats.

“I think we shocked her a little bit early there,” Turners coach Gary Mullins said of MacDonald. “She hasn’t been giving up much of anything all year, so to jump on her like that, I don’t think she was expecting it.”

Arzuaga, who had two hits in her final game in a Turners uniform, said the fast start was exactly what the team needed despite having to play as the visiting team and sit in the first-base dugout for the first time since the regular season.

“It was a great start for us,” she explained. “It definitely gave us a little confidence to come out as strong as we did.”

Austin Prep was unable to get to Emery until the bottom of the third inning. Cristina Tighe singled with two outs, and Lauren Sablone followed with a single to left field that snuck under the glove of Turners left fielder Maddy Johnson. Tighe was able to scamper all the way around from first base, tying the game, 1-1.

“It’s never easy to hold onto a one-run lead, so we lost a little momentum when (Austin Prep) started hitting the ball,” Arzuaga said.

But like it has all season, Turners Falls responded immediately when faced with adversity. In the top of the fourth, eighth-grader Taylor Murphy led off with a double and moved to second on a Johnson ground out. With two outs, senior right fielder Melissa Hersey looped a pop-up to shallow right field. Austin Prep second baseman Isabella Saracco appeared to be in position to make the play, but with right fielder Alexandra Santostefano also charging, the pair suffered a brief lapse in concentration. The ball deflected off Saracco’s glove and on the ground in fair territory, allowing Murphy to score the go-ahead run, putting Turners back on top, 2-1.

Emery allowed just one baserunner in the fourth and fifth innings combined, but the Cougars didn’t go away quietly in the home half of the sixth. With two outs and nobody on, Kendra Currier drew the game’s only walk, and Francesca Frelick reached on a two-base error that put runners on second and third.

With the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, Mullins visited the mound to discuss the team’s options. The brief huddle offered either the chance to intentionally walk Caroline Sablone — one of the team’s best hitters, to load the bases for Saracco — or attack Sablone and try and get out of further trouble.

“We talked about the options there and then I gave Peyton the final decision on what she wanted to do,” Mullins revealed.

Despite pitching in her first state championship game with the season on the line, the confident junior didn’t waver.

“I wanted to try and get that last out myself,” Emery said. “I knew it was up to me to push myself.”

Emery attacked Sablone, getting her to line out to Jordyn Fiske in center field for the third out that retired the side and kept Turners ahead, 2-1.

“Peyton wanted to go after her. She felt good about it,” Arzuaga said of the decision.

With just three outs standing between Turners and the record-breaking ninth state title, Emery saved her best for last. After junior third baseman Abby Loynd made a nice play on a bunt to lead off the seventh, Emery struck out the final two hitters of her season, including a title-clinching whiff of Austin Prep first baseman Rebecca Lowe that set off a raucous on-field celebration.

“I was nervous because I knew we could definitely beat this team but it’s still a really hard thing to win (a title),” explained Taylor Murphy, who had two hits in her state championship debut.

Turners held a 6-3 edge in hits, with Wozniak, Arzuaga and Taylor Murphy smacking two each. The Powertown made MacDonald work, as they put runners on in every inning but two en route to the victory.

“She’s tough but I keep saying it: If you make pitchers pitch and throw strikes without chasing, you make their job very hard,” Mullins said of MacDonald. “And we were able to do that. Just like we have all year.”

The title was the third for the team’s four seniors: Arzuaga, Fiske, Hersey and Johnson. It was the program’s seventh championship in the last 12 years at the Div. III level.

“At the beginning of the season, I don’t think many people gave us a chance to get back here and win again,” explained Arzuaga. “We have such a young team and a lot of new faces playing, but we believed all year that we had what it takes to make it three in a row.”

Turners improved to 9-6 all-time in state-championship games. Austin Prep fell to 0-2, both losses to the Powertown.

“They came in with a vengeance to try and get even after last year, so we had to be ready for them and we were up to the challenge,” Arzuaga said of the Cougars.

Tourney tidbits: The day began with a little homecooking for Turners. Prior to the top of the first, assistant coach Jim Loynd unveiled a canister of dirt from Turners Falls, sprinkling it in the on-deck circle and in front of the visiting dugout. Each player took a little dirt and marked their hands or uniforms for a little bit of the Powertown in Worcester. … MacDonald, facing Turners Falls for the second straight year in the state finals, finished with eight strikeouts. … Emery continued to successfully mix her pitches. She put in extra work on Friday night in preparation for the final. “She was hitting her curve and her rise ball,” Arzuaga said of her batterymate. “And nothing was phasing her out there.” … The game lasted 1 hour, 35 minutes. … Arzuaga was the only starting Turners infielder who’ll graduate. Aly Murphy (freshman, first base), Taylor Murphy (eighth grade, second base), Cassidhe Wozniak (sophomore, shortstop), Abby Loynd (junior, third base) and Peyton Emery (junior, pitcher) will all be back next spring as the program goes for state title No. 10. Eighth-grader Olivia Whittier also drew the start as the designated hitter for Emery.