Class C softball: MacKenzie Paulin strikes out 17, big 5th inning lifts Greenfield past Tech for 3rd straight WMass title (PHOTOS)

The Greenfield softball team celebrates after its 4-0 win over Franklin Tech in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University.

The Greenfield softball team celebrates after its 4-0 win over Franklin Tech in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Greenfield’s MacKenzie Paulin delivers a pitch during her team’s 4-0 win over Franklin Tech in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University.

Greenfield’s MacKenzie Paulin delivers a pitch during her team’s 4-0 win over Franklin Tech in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

The Greenfield softball team shows off its hardware after a 4-0 win over Franklin Tech in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University.

The Greenfield softball team shows off its hardware after a 4-0 win over Franklin Tech in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Franklin Tech’s Samantha Duncan (20) rounds second base and heads toward third during her team’s 4-0 loss to Greenfield in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University.

Franklin Tech’s Samantha Duncan (20) rounds second base and heads toward third during her team’s 4-0 loss to Greenfield in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Greenfield’s Grace Laurie takes a swing during the Green Wave’s 4-0 win over Franklin Tech in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University.

Greenfield’s Grace Laurie takes a swing during the Green Wave’s 4-0 win over Franklin Tech in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Greenfield’s MacKenzie Paulin and Ainslee Flynn celebrate after their team’s 4-0 win over Franklin Tech in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University.

Greenfield’s MacKenzie Paulin and Ainslee Flynn celebrate after their team’s 4-0 win over Franklin Tech in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Franklin Tech shortstop Kait Trudeau looks toward first base after making a force out at second during the Eagles’ 4-0 loss to Greenfield in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University.

Franklin Tech shortstop Kait Trudeau looks toward first base after making a force out at second during the Eagles’ 4-0 loss to Greenfield in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Franklin Tech catcher Kylee Gamache, left, tags out Greenfield’s Anna Bucala at the plate during the Green Wave’s 4-0 win in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University.

Franklin Tech catcher Kylee Gamache, left, tags out Greenfield’s Anna Bucala at the plate during the Green Wave’s 4-0 win in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Franklin Tech second baseman Lilly Ross throws out a Greenfield runner during the Eagles’ 4-0 loss in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University.

Franklin Tech second baseman Lilly Ross throws out a Greenfield runner during the Eagles’ 4-0 loss in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Franklin Tech third baseman Kyra Goodell throws out a Greenfield runner during the Eagles’ 4-0 loss \ in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University.

Franklin Tech third baseman Kyra Goodell throws out a Greenfield runner during the Eagles’ 4-0 loss \ in the Western Mass. Class C final on Wednesday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 05-29-2024 9:06 PM

WESTFIELD — After Greenfield defeated Franklin Tech 1-0 in the regular season, the rematch in the Western Mass. Class C title game between the top-seeded Green Wave and the No. 2 Eagles on Wednesday was predicted to be a low-scoring contest. 

Through four innings the game was scoreless, and the feel was that one big inning by either squad would prove to be the difference. 

Franklin Tech came to the plate in the fifth and put runners on second and third, but it was unable to get a run across. Greenfield got its bats going in the fifth and was able to convert when it had base runners. An error got the opening run across before Carly Blanchard singled in a pair to give the Green Wave a 3-0 lead. 

Greenfield added a run in the sixth and pitcher MacKenzie Paulin didn’t allow the Eagles to get anything going in the sixth or seventh, as the Green Wave captured their third straight Class C title with a 4-0 victory at Westfield State University. 

“Before this game I was feeling the pressure of the three-peat, even more than last year,” Paulin said. “The nerves went away once I stepped on the field but this feels just as good as the first one. We wanted that three-peat so this feels great.” 

Paulin finished the game with 17 strikeouts, scattering three hits and no walks to keep Tech off the bases. The junior was subsequently named the Gary Stacy Class C MVP of the tournament. 

After the first meeting with the Eagles earlier this season, Paulin said she knew she had to have her best stuff in a game where runs would be hard to come by. 

“I felt really good out there today,” Paulin said. “My screwball was working well and that kept them off me for most of the game. I knew I had to shut them out if we were going to have a chance. We scored one run last game and that’s what we needed to win. I knew I couldn’t let them score in this game and I gave it my all out there.” 

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Hannah Gilbert went the distance for the Eagles, striking out six and giving up just three hits. 

“It was going to be a tight game all the way through,” Green Wave coach Ray Dodge said. “Hannah pitched a really good game. All credit to her for holding us down. There haven’t been too many times we’ve only scored four runs. Kenz was Kenz with 17 strikeouts. That’s 56 strikeouts in three games [the last two years] against this team. She knows what she’s doing when they’re at the plate.” 

Three errors in the field hurt Tech’s cause, and Greenfield didn’t commit an error behind Paulin. 

“Both pitchers battled and pitched great,” Eagles coach Joe Gamache said. “That part was anticipated for sure. It was going to come down to which team made the least amount of mistakes and that was not us tonight. They capitalized on our mistakes.” 

Blanchard singled and Ellis Benitez was hit by a pitch to put a pair on for Greenfield in the second, but Gilbert responded with two strikeouts to keep the game scoreless going into the third. 

Paulin had a perfect game going into the fifth when Kylee Gamache smashed a single to give the Eagles their first base runner of the game. 

Samantha Duncan, running for Gamache, took third after Kyra Goodell cracked a base hit and Goodell stole second to put runners on second and third with one out. 

Paulin didn’t panic, striking out the ensuing two batters to keep Tech off the board. 

Anna Bucala singled with one out in the fifth for the Green Wave, stole second and made it to third on an error on the throw to second. 

Ainslee Flynn grounded to third but Goodell made the throw home to Kylee Gamache to erase Bucala and keep the game temporarily scoreless.

Paulin was intentionally walked, putting a pair on for Gloria McDonald with two outs. Following a wild pitch that allowed both runners to move up a base, McDonald hit a grounder but the throw to first was just offline, allowing Flynn to score to give the Green Wave the opening run of the contest. 

Blanchard, dealing with an injury, followed with a base hit up the middle that drove in Paulin and McDonald to give Greenfield a 3-0 lead going into the sixth. 

“I sprained my thumb so hitting has been very hard,” Blanchard said. “It’s always so energizing when you actually get a hit, even if it’s a blooper hit, and the rest of the team gets up with you. Then you get rolling.

“This feels so good,” Blanchard added. “Now we want to go for the three-peat with states, too. When it’s scoreless for half the game, we were waiting for something to get going. We definitely pumped our energy up and started rolling.” 

A pair of walks in the bottom of the sixth put Ivy Rae and Meghan Collins on, with Rae scoring on an error after Bucala put the ball in play to make it a 4-0 game.

The top seed in the MIAA Div. 5 state field after brackets were released Wednesday, the Green Wave are hoping to win a third consecutive state title to go along with their third straight Western Mass. championship. 

“We’re feeling really good, especially after scoring more than one run against a team like this,” Paulin said. “We’re playing good teams lately and beating them. That’s giving us a lot of confidence and we’re really looking forward to states.” 

The Eagles will be the No. 5 seed in the Div. 5 bracket, with their season far from over. The teams could meet for a third time this season in the state semifinals.

“You’re never satisfied and you don’t strive for second place,” Gamache said, “but we’ve had a heck of a season. Now we have one more opportunity to make a run at states.”