Joy, Smith power Wave to finals, 5-1

  • Greenfield's Samantha Smith crosses home plate following a wild pitch in the fifth inning of the Wave’s 5-1 victory over Hampshire in the WMass Division II semifinals at Sortino Field in Amherst.

  • Greenfield's Kirsten Ward reaches out for a single on Thursday during the Green Wave’s 5-1 win over Hampshire in the WMass Division II semifinals at Sortino Field in Amherst.

  • Above, Greenfield catcher Elizabeth Howland, left, and pitcher Olivia Joy celebrate after the Green Wave defeated Hampshire, 5-1, in the WMass Division II semifinals Thursday at Sortino Field in Amherst. Below, Kirsten Ward singles in the fourth inning.

  • Greenfield’s Olivia Joy struck out nine and allowed two hits and one walk on Thursday as she led the Green Wave past Hampshire, 5-1, in the WMass Division II softball semifinals at Sortino field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/SARAH CROSBY

  • Greenfield’s Samantha Smith, center, is greeted by her teammates after belting a home run in the first inning of Thursday’s WMass Division II semifinal at Sortino Field in Amherst where the Wave earned a trip to Saturday’s finals with a 5-1 victory. FOR THE RECORDER/SARAH CROSBY

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/14/2018 11:21:01 PM

AMHERST — Samantha Smith started it. Olivia Joy finished it. In between, the Greenfield High School softball team received contributions all over the place. As a result, the WMass Division II softball tournament will have a new champion for the first time since 2013.

Four-time defending champ Hampshire Regional High School was on the receiving end of an opening statement from Smith, and was unable to keep up with a blistering mound performance from Joy. The Green Wave showcased its all-around game to defeat fifth-seeded Hampshire, 5-1, Thursday evening at Sortino Field on the campus of UMass.

Greenfield (18-2) advanced to Saturday’s WMass Div. II title game, where it will meet No. 3 Wahconah Regional High School (16-6) at 1:30 p.m. back at UMass. Wahconah defeated second-seeded Hoosac Valley High School, 14-2, in the other semifinal Thursday.

Top-seeded Greenfield exorcised its semifinal demons from a year ago, when it was soundly beaten, 8-0, by rival Turners Falls High School, and also helped members of the girls’ basketball team avenge a loss to the Red Raiders in the WMass semifinals in the winter. 

“The girls really wanted to win this game,” began Greenfield coach Rian Lovett of the semifinal victory. “A lot of these girls lost to Hampshire during basketball season. They wanted to come out and get a win and to beat Hampshire to get (to the finals) made it that much more special.”

After falling behind early in last year’s WMass semifinal loss to Turners Falls, the Wave went out in Thursday’s game determined to change that narrative. Joy struck out a pair in setting Hampshire down in order in the top of the first, and Smith got her squad off on the right foot in the home half. With two outs, the junior shortstop went with an outside pitch from Hampshire hurler Emily Halket, driving it to deep right center field. The blast easily cleared the fence for a solo home run that put Greenfield out in front, 1-0.

“Getting ahead, especially that early in the game, that’s a big boost for our team and (Joy),” offered Smith of the solo home run. “It’s great to get off to a good start.”

Lovett said the first inning went almost exactly the way she had hoped.

“I said, ‘Let’s go get three outs and score a run,’” she said of the game plan. “Getting off to a start like that, it makes such a huge difference. Liv can settle down out there and really everyone can settle their nerves when we’re playing with a lead.”

Joy cruised through the first three innings, setting Hampshire down in order the first time through the lineup.

“I felt good, especially after (Smith’s) home run,” recalled Joy. “Obviously, I’m nervous and we all have some nerves because of the last game we played at UMass. So scoring right away was big.”

The Red Raiders (11-9) finally broke through in the top of the fourth, however, when Maggie Rubeck led off with a single and eventually scored on a two-out bloop single by Katelyn Labrie to tie the game, 1-1. Joy escaped further damage, striking out Brooke Kavanaugh with runners at the corners to keep her side level.

Hampshire may have had new life after scoring its first run, but Greenfield made sure it was short-lived. Lizzy Howland and Kirsten Ward smacked lead-off singles in the bottom of the fourth, and an error on the throw in on Ward’s base hit got away, allowing Howland to move up to third base. Ward stole second base, and the Wave regained its lead thanks to a Raegan Hickey sacrifice fly to left that plated Howland for a 2-1 advantage.

Giving Joy the lead for a second time proved to be all she wrote. The junior right-hander retired nine of the final 10 batters she faced in the final three innings, with the lone runner to reach coming on an error in the sixth.

“She wanted to come back and show she’s as dominant as everyone thinks she is,” said Lovett of her star pitcher. “She was stellar. The speed was there, but she hit her spots today as well.”

Hampshire coach Kevin Kavanaugh was impressed with Joy, saying his team tried to prepare for the hard-throwing ace leading up to Thursday’s semifinal in practice.

“She throws fast,” Kavanaugh began. “We turned up the pitching machine to 60-61 (miles per hour) for the past two days. She throws two or three miles per hour faster than anything we’ve seen all year. We play in a Division I league so we see good pitching but she’s throws the ball hard, no question about it.”

Clinging to a 2-1 lead, Greenfield’s offense provided more than enough insurance thanks to a big sixth inning. On the third time through the lineup, the Wave got to work with two outs. Audrey Bresciano and Smith singled to extend the inning, and Kelsey Richardson made it 3-1 with an RBI single right back up the middle. Greenfield wasn’t done. A wild pitch enabled Smith to scamper home for another run, and Howland followed with her second hit of the night, an RBI single, that gave the top seeds plenty of cushion, up 5-1.

“We’re a good-hitting team,” lauded Lovett, whose team finished with nine hits in the win. “I think we were a little nervous because the Athol (quarterfinal) game, we didn’t hit the ball all that well. But we showed what kind of team we can be and hit the ball the way we’re capable of hitting it.”

Joy finished with nine strikeouts and just one walk while allowing a pair of singles — both coming in the fourth inning.

“I just tried to stay with the game plan and if something wasn’t working, make adjustments,” Joy said of the outing. “I felt a lot more comfortable than last time (at UMass). I completely trust my team. I know that if we need a run, they’re going to get it.”

Greenfield’s trip to Saturday’s championship game is the first for the program since 2009. The Div. II title contest is the second of a tripleheader, and is followed by Turners Falls against Mount Everett Regional School in the Div. III title game at 4 p.m. Fans should be aware that the Sunderland bridge will be closed from 1 to 3 p.m. due to the Sunderland 300th anniversary parade.

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