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Healy, Bertrand no-hit Gators

NORTHFIELD — Shea Healy pitched five perfect innings for Pioneer Valley Regional School on Friday and Erin Bertrand threw a pair of hitless innings in the combined no-hitter as the seventh-seeded Panthers eliminated 10th-seeded Gateway Regional High School, 9-1, in Western Massachusetts Division III Softball Tournament first-round action.

Pioneer advances to tonight’s quarterfinal game at the Bourdeau Fields Complex in Turners Falls where it will take on second-seeded and two-time defending state champion Turners Falls High School at 7.

Healy was mowing Gator batters down over five innings, recording eight of her 15 outs by way of strikeout. Healy opened the game with back-to-back strikeouts in the top of the first inning, and went on to strike out two batters in three of the five innings she worked. For all her mastery inside the circle, the game may be best remembered for what happened to her outside of it.

After Pioneer (11-10) scored seven runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Pioneer coach Joel Cole opted to lift Healy in favor of backup pitcher Erin Bertrand, denying Healy an opportunity of hurling a perfect game. Cole said he made the decision to remove Healy because the Panthers are playing on back-to-back days and he wanted his ace fresh.

“It’s not about the individual, it’s about the team, and we know we have back-to-back games,” he explained. “We are playing Turners, the defending state champs, and we want to give them the best possible game we can and that’s going to be with the strongest pitching we’ve got.”

While Healy understood the coach’s decision, she was disappointed that she didn’t get the chance to finish off the perfect game.

“I’m kind of disappointed,” she began. “It’s so that I can get ready for tomorrow, but obviously I would have liked to have had a perfect game because I’ve never had one before. But we switched it up and we kept it together.”

Bertrand came on and was not as effective as Healy, but still pitched well. The chance for a combined perfect game was broken up when the first batter Bertrand faced, Brie Bruno, hit a shot toward shortstop that Pioneer’s Tara O’Neil bobbled for an error. Erica Wolfe followed with a nubber that went in front of the plate, but Pioneer catcher Jackie LaFleur, who had a strong defensive game, bobbled the ball as she tried to barehand it, and Wolfe reached on the second error of the inning, back-to-back walks to Chelsea Edinger and Kendall Rooney forced in a run and broke the shutout bid. Bertrand came back to strike out Becca Wolfe, and then induced a pair of ground ball outs, including a shot to third that Healy fielded and fired home to force a runner for the second out of the inning, and the Panthers got out of the bases-loaded jam without any further damage.

As for the offense, Pioneer scored one run in the bottom of the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Mary Luckham, and then added a second run in the third inning on an RBI single from Chianne Hubert. The Panthers broke the game open with the seven-run fifth, which was helped out by three Gateway errors. LaFleur belted a two-run triple in the frame, while Hubert knocked in her second run of the game, and O’Neil and Healy both hit RBI singles.

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