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Pioneer sent packing, 8-0

SHEFFIELD — The two-hour drive to this picturesque town near the Connecticut and New York borders is tough enough. Facing arguably the best pitcher in western Massachsuetts is another matter entirely.

Pioneer Valley Regional School faced that challenge on a windy and mostly overcast Saturday afternoon against defending Western Mass. Division III champion Mt. Everett Regional School and its senior ace pitcher Alicia Bazonski, and the righthanded fireballer silenced the Panthers’ lineup during an 8-0 quarterfinal victory.

Bazonski — who will attend UNC-Greensboro on an athletic scholarship starting this fall — recorded one of her typical efficient performances in the circle, limiting Pioneer to two singles and throwing just 85 pitches (69 for strikes). She only went to a three-ball count twice — in the third, when ninth hitter Kaitlin Grover blooped a single just over the head of second baseman Chandler DeGrenier, and the fourth, when she eventually struck out Mary Luckham on one of her standard 60-plus mph fastball.

Bazonski, whose pitches have been consistently clocked between 61 and 64 mph, finished with 12 strikeouts and no walks.

The top-seeded Eagles (20-0) squeezed out a run in the opening frame when they loaded the bases with two outs. Hannah Joyce then struck out, but Pioneer starter Erin Bertrand’s pitch was wild and got past catcher Cheyenne Hubert, allowing Morgan DeGrenier to scamper home with the first run.

Everett added a pair of tallies in the second inning. Brooke Morehouse reached on an infield single, stole second and went to third on Gwen Carpenter’s sacrifice bunt. Emily Coon plated Morehouse with a grounder to short, and Coon eventually reached on Logan Anderson’s error. Coon took second on a wild pitch, then Morgan DeGrenier ripped a shot up the middle to score Coon and make it 3-0.

After DeGrenier’s RBI single, Bertrand seemed to settle in to a ryhthm and retired the next eight batters she faced. But Everett was waiting for her with one out in the fifth, and Bertrand was unable to survive the Eagles’ ensuing offensive eruption.

Morgan DeGrenier got it started with a single, then Natasha MacLeay walked. Sam Hoover followed with a single that scored DeGrenier and moved to MacLeay to third. Hoover advanced to second on the throw. Bazonski then came up and ripped a line shot to left-center that went for a two-run triple and upped the lead to 6-0. Joyce followed by reaching on an infield single and subsequently stole second, and Chandler DeGrenier ended Bertrand’s day by delivering a line single to center that brought home Bazonski and Joyce.

Grover relieved Bertrand and retired all five batters she faced, with one strikeout. Nicole Bitzer collected the Panthers’ only other, a solid two-out single through the left side in the fourth.

Pioneer, the ninth seed, finished its season 13-9 overall.

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