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Indians smack St. Joe’s

TURNERS FALLS — Mackenzie Phillips fired a one-hitter and struck out 12 to help Turners Falls High School overcome a subpar effort and beat St. Joseph’s Central High School, 10-0, in the quarterfinals of the Western Massachusetts Division III Softball Tournament on a damp Saturday night at the Bourdeau Fields Complex.

Phillips appeared to be in control throughout, going to a three-ball count twice and walking only one batter. Her only blemish came during the fourth inning when St. Joe’s catcher Kelsey Cook lined a single to left.

The third-seeded Indians (20-2) — who advanced to Wednesday’s 3 p.m. semifinal against second-seeded Monson High School at UMass’ Sortino Field — opened the scoring in the second inning on Hailey Whipple’s RBI single through the right side. They quickly upped the advantage to 3-0 when Jenna Putala took advantage of a dropped foul pop-up and drilled a solo home run to left-center field. Then Phillips reached on a three-base error, which scored Gabby Arzuaga, who had singled.

Turners broke it open with a five-run fourth. Jordyn Fiske reached base on an error, Whipple followed with an single and Morgan Ozdarski brought both home with a single (Maddy Johnson courtesy-ran for Ozdarski). Putala reached on another Crusader error and Amber Caouette bunted for a single to load the bases for Arzuaga. After Maddy Johnson scored on a wild pitch, Arzuaga ripped a line single to center field to plate Putala and Caouette.

The Indians capped the night off by scoring two more in the sixth, when Ozdarski doubled for the second time, Caouette reached on a pop fly single that the left field lost sight of, and Emma Johnson roped a double to the center-field fence.

But this win certainly won’t make any top-10 lists in the Indians’ storied history. One needed only watch the reactions of veteran head coach Gary Mullins during the contest to realize that. And when you play for a program that has won 15 sectional titles (12 since 2000), the expectations and goals are lofty indeed.

That’s why Mullins cringed at the sight of three uncharacteristic errors, nine strikeouts and multiple baserunning gaffes that cost his team runs. It may not have mattered on this night, but as Turners moves forward, he and the rest of the coaching staff know that giving away runs will lead to a quick elimination before the championship banner they’re aiming at.

St. Joseph’s pitcher Julia Murphy tried to keep her team in it, pitching admirably by recording those nine strikeouts and walking only two (neither runner scored). But her defense completely abandoned her, committing five errors and looking unsure on their relay throws. Turners simply played fundamental softball on offense, taking the extra base and keeping the pressure on. Once the bats finally warmed up, it was lights out for the Crusaders.

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