Monson ousts Raiders, 6-2

MONSON— Monson High School’s Carly Zielinski was a one-player wrecking crew Saturday afternoon at Quarry Hill School, as the No. 2 seed Mustangs defeated 10th-seeded Athol High School, 6-2, in the quarterfinals of the Western Massachusetts Division III Softball Tournament.

Zielinski was the winning pitcher for the Mustangs (20-2), going all seven innings, striking out five, and allowing no walks. As impressive as that line is, it was her offensive performance that stole the show. Zielinski went 4-4 with three singles and a 2-run home run, knocked in three runs, and scored two of her own.

Monson struck early with three runs in the bottom of the first, putting the Red Raiders in an early hole. Zielinski whacked a one-out single to start the rally, followed by a base hit by Maddie DiSanti. After a walk to Zoe Chevrette, a passed ball allowed courtesy runner Jordan Bailey to cross the plate, and the other runners moved up to second and third. Hannah Colling then stepped to the dish and promptly smacked a base hit to right field to drive in two.

Athol (15-6) was not fazed, however, and put up its best threat of the day in the top of the second. After singles by Jordan Carey and Lexi Hamlett put runners on first and third with two out, Olivia Smith stepped to the plate, and almost entirely changed the complexion of the game. Smith pulled a Zielinski offering deep down the left-field line, and at first glance, it appeared she had tied the game with a three-run dinger. It was called a foul ball, however, and Athol head coach Colleen Bannister agreed with the call.

“The second I saw it go, of course I immediately celebrated, but then I turned around and saw where the ball landed and I knew they got the call right. It’s frustrating, and it literally is a game of inches. That would have tied the game and changed the whole atmosphere,” said Bannister.

Zielinski came back to strike out Smith, ending the threat, and Monson tacked on its fourth run in the bottom of the frame to take a 4-0 advantage. Athol pitcher Jess Soucie then settled in and kept the Mustangs off the board until the bottom of the sixth, when Zielinski hit her homer, a drive to deep left center that just cleared the fence. With the score at 6-0, and Athol down to its final three outs, the Raiders would not quit.

With one out in the top of the seventh, Kayla Robideau doubled and came around to score when Smith reached on an error. After a passed ball moved Smith to second, Kiki Guerin hit a ringing single to right for an RBI. That was the end of the Red Raider scoring, as Julia Salmond, who earlier had been robbed of extra bases on a diving grab by Mustangs’ center fielder Emily Garon, flied out to end the contest.

“It was a good game,” said Bannister. “We hit the ball well, and they played great defense. When you get solid pitching and you make plays like the one she [Garon] made on Julia, you’re going to win, but I’m very proud of my girls. They never quit.”

The loss marks the end of the high school careers of Smith, Liz Arpide, and Carey.

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