Turners Falls’ glory ride derailed, 3-0
AMHERST — Turners Falls High School was attempting to finish off a decade’s worth of dominance on Sunday at UMass’ Sortino Field.
What the Indians witnessed, however, was an afternoon of brilliance from Alicia Bazonski.
After surrendering singles to the first two batters of the contest, the Mt. Everett Regional School pitcher retired 21 of the final 24 batters she faced, including 13 in a row, while the Eagles capitalized on all three of Turners’ errors to post a 3-0 victory and capture the school’s first Western Massachusetts Division III Softball championship since 1990.
“It feels really good,” said Bazonski afterward. “We’ve waited like 20 years or something for this.”
The top-seeded Eagles (22-1) advance to Tuesday’s state semifinal against Central Mass. champion Assabet Valley Regional-Technical High School of Marlborough.
Turners, the No. 2 seed, finished 20-3.
Everett jumped out to a 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the second inning. Sam Hoover led off by drawing a walk and advanced to second on Alex Hoover’s sacrifice bunt. Emily Coon followed with a bloop single to left that moved Sam Hoover to third, then Hoover scored and Coon moved to second on left fielder Amber Caouette’s error.
The Eagles’ aggressiveness on the base paths cost them in the fourth and kept the Indians in the game.
Bazonski walked to lead off the frame. Kayla Krom, who came in as a courtesy runner, went to second on Sam Hoover’s sac bunt. Alex Hoover followed with a line single to left, but Everett head coach Kurt DeGrenier got greedy and waved Krom home. Caouette fielded the ball and threw a bullet to catcher Morgan Ozdarski, who slapped the tag on Krom for the second out. Meanwhile, Alex Hoover tried to advance to second on the play, but Ozdarski made a fantastic throw to second baseman Putala, who applied the tag to complete the unusual 7-2-4 double play and end the inning.
Turners’ only other opportunity to score occurred in the sixth. Smith-Porter reached on first baseman Natasha MacLeay’s one-out error, then Tanisha Sanders walked. Mackenzie Salls stepped up and hit a blooper to the left side, but no fielders called for the ball, and shortstop Coon reached to snag the ball before it fell in for the second out. Bazonski then got Ozdarski on a comebacker to end that threat.
The Eagles responded by scoring two more unearned runs in the sixth for insurance.
Haley Finn led off the frame by beating out an infield grounder, bringing Morgan DeGrenier to the plate. DeGrenier dropped down a sac bunt that Ozdarski fielded cleanly, but appeared to rush her throw and launched it over Salls’ head at first. Brittany York backed up the play, but the ball also got past her, which allowed Finn to score and DeGrenier to get to third on the rare double error. MacLeay then hit a sharp grounder to second to plate DeGrenier for a comfortable three-run lead.
“We just looked a little tentative,” offered Turners head coach Gary Mullins. “I thought we could beat that club. I thought we had the better team, and I’m not sure if I’m incorrect in making that statement, but we got beat by good pitching.”
Bazonski got into a brief jam in the top of the first inning, as Jenna Putala hit a soft liner into short center field and Dakota Smith-Porter followed by fisting a single to short left field, putting runners at first and second. Sanders moved both runners over with her grounder to second, but Bazonski caught Salls looking at a third strike and got Ozdarski to ground out to short to end the threat.
From that point, Bazonski stayed away from the middle of the plate, and she constantly changed locations with her pitches and tried to force the Indians out of their comfort zone. The result was six strikeouts, a multitude of pitches that were fouled off and no hits for the remainder of the contest.
“(I just wanted to) keep them off balance,” said Bazonski. “I just needed to stay off the plate because they’re a good hitting team.”
Bazonski didn’t have it easy in spite of her two-hit shutout. She threw 109 pitches in all, 74 for strikes, and needed 27 pitches in the fourth inning alone, even though she eventually retired the side in order.
Notes: Bazonski’s six strikeouts were a season-low. ... The loss ended Turners’ streaks of 29 consecutive WMass tournament wins, 12 consecutive postseason wins, and nine straight championship wins (seven in Division III, two in Division II). The last time Turners had lost in the finals before Sunday was to Frontier Regional School in the 1998 Division III final. ... There were no extra-base hits in the game. Everett finished with five singles. ... Smith-Porter struck out two and walked two, and retired the side in order only once. ... The Indians, in spite of Sunday’s loss, are still 17-5 in the WMass finals, and 21-3 at Sortino Field.