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State softball semifinals invade Powertown

Significant upgrades to outdoor athletic facilities at Franklin County high schools over the past 15 years have made them desirable neutral site locations for western Massachusetts postseason games and competitions in baseball, field hockey, football, soccer and track & field.

Now the county will up the ante by hosting state tournament games for the first time ever.

The Bourdeau Fields Complex at Turners Falls High School will becomes the temporary mecca of softball today beginning at 5 p.m., when it is scheduled to host the MIAA State Division I and II semifinals.

Wahconah Regional High School of Dalton will face defending state champion Grafton High School in the Division II semifinal at 5, followed by Division I tilt between Agawam and Marlboro high schools at approximately 7.

State Tournament Director Rich Lewis said he made the decision to move the games from Sortino Field at UMass — which hosts nine WMass games each year and three state semifinal games every other year — after a conversation with Western Mass. Tournament Director Gary Stacy.

“He said he thought the grounds crew wouldn’t be available (at UMass), so I said. ‘Well, we’ve got to move it out of there. ... I first considered bringing the games back to Worcester (Rockwood Field). I asked Gary if there was a place in Western Mass. that could host it, and he said he could call Turners and see if it was available. I’ve heard good things about Turners, so I asked him to call the AD (Glenn Doulette) to see if they could host, and he said yes. Then I ran it by the MIAA, and they OK’d it.”

Doulette was more than happy to host the doubleheader.

“We have a great school and great fields,” he said. “ I thought it was the right thing to do, and it helps (Rich) in the process. I think the athletes will enjoy the opportunity to play here.”

Lewis added that he wanted to keep the semis in Western Mass., since the semifinals alternate between UMass and Rockwood Field, on the campus of Worcester State University.

Lewis said he did get a good laugh from the reactions when he made the site switch official.

“Nobody’s ever heard on Montague out here,” said Lewis, a Shrewsbury resident, when he informed Grafton and Marlboro officials of the new site. “I told them it’s not too far away. I went to school at UMass, so I know where it is. I always enjoy going out west, it’s nice country out there. ... You mention Montague to people out here, and they’re like, ‘What? How far is that?’”

Lewis said the only minor “issue” with the complex was limited seating, “but we’ll survive that,” he said. “I just told the schools to remind their fans to bring lawn chairs.”

As an added bonus, fans will get a discount to attend the games. Because Turners is a high-school facility, admission for the twin bill is just $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors (prices at college venues are $10 and $7, respectively).

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