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Turners Falls’ Coach Mullins not griping about No. 3 seed

It could be one of the toughest Western Massachusetts Division III Softball Tournament fields in recent memory.

Although it compiled an 18-2 regular-season record, perennial tourney team Turners Falls High School could muster only the No. 3 seed in the 15-team tourney as the seeds were revealed Tuesday night at Northampton High School.

The softball field underwent realignment this season and Division II consists of just 12 teams, while Division III has 30 teams in it. A number of those teams in Division III are technical schools, which tend to struggle in the postseason, but it still makes for a difficult road in the division.

Five local teams found out their seeds heading into the postseason and the Indians were the top local seed with the No. 3 spot. The Indians will open up Thursday afternoon at 2 against 14th-seeded Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in a game fit for the mercy rule.

There was a bit of drama surrounding the Indians, who were seeded behind No. 2 Monson High School, which also finished the season 18-2 overall. The issue with seeding the Mustangs ahead of the Indians is that one of Monson’s two losses this season came at the hands of the Indians in a 4-2 defeat. And Monson’s other loss? A 6-4 defeat to Frontier Regional School, a team that Turners Falls has beaten twice this season.

“It’s not a concern,” Turners Falls coach Gary Mullins said of the seed. “I was a little surprised because Monson’s two losses were to us and Frontier. I thought we would be seeded higher, but it really doesn’t matter.”

It does beg the question of whether there should be some sort of common-sense rule when seeding teams. Western Mass. uses something called the Walker System to determine the seeds, which takes into account a number of variables, including strength of schedule. It is a good system for ranking teams but not a perfect one, according to many people. One thing that might make sense to tweak is that if a team is seeded right behind another team that it has already beaten during the season (like in the case between Turners Falls and Monson), the teams should be flip-flopped. Call it the “Common Sense Rule.”

Mullins stressed that the seed really doesn’t matter, although should Turners Falls and Monson meet in the semifinals (which would be played at a neutral site), the only thing that would matter is who the home team is and gets last-bats against the visitor .

Everyone knows that to win the tournament someone is going to have to find a way to defeat top-seeded Mt. Everett Regional High School and its stud pitcher Alicia Bazonski. The UNC-Greensboro-bound pitcher has helped the Eagles to a 19-0 record and is a no-hitter machine. She helped the Eagles win the WMass Division III crown last year and appears primed to make at least another appearance in the title game this season.

The other three local teams in the Division III field will all open on the road. Because of realignment and the loss of Hampshire Regional High School this season, the Franklin County League no longer holds the same weight as it once did. The local circuit is now primarily made up of Division III schools, so teams like Turners Falls and other previous Division III schools are no longer aided by the league schedule, which used to be heavy with Division II schools.

Pioneer Valley Regional School (12-8) picked up the ninth seed and will have to travel to eighth-seeded McCann Technical High School (11-9) Thursday at 4. Athol High School (14-6) was a bit of a surprise at the No. 10 seed and will travel to seventh-seeded Ware High School (10-8) on Thursday at 4. Franklin County Technical School (13-7) earned the 13th seed and will have to head to Cheshire on Friday to take on Hoosac Valley Regional High School.

The Division II field has just seven teams, meaning no first-round games. Hampshire (17-3) earned the top seed and gets a free pass to the semifinals, while Belchertown High School (10-10) picked up the second seed. Coming in at No. 3 is Frontier (16-2), which suffered only two losses this season (both to Turners Falls) and will open at home Friday afternoon at 4 against sixth-seeded Wahconah Regional High School (13-7).

For complete brackets see the Scoreboard page. All times are scheduled to change.

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