Greenfield riding tidal Wave to finals?

  • Greenfield’s Samantha Smith forces out a Wahconah baserunner at third during the WMass Division II softball championship game Saturday at Sortino Field in Amherst. Below left, Greenfield catcher Elizabeth Howland catches a foul ball against Wahconah. for recorder photos/jerrey roberts

  • Greenfield catcher Elizabeth Howland catches a foul ball hit by Wahconah’s Kaitlyn Olds during the Western Massachusetts Division II softball championship game Saturday at Sortino Field in Amherst. for the recorder/jerrey roberts

  • Greenfield pitcher Olivia Joy pitches to Wahconah during the Western Massachusetts Division II softball championship game Saturday at Sortino Field in Amherst. for the recorder/jerrey roberts

  • Greenfield baserunner Gianna Conte smiles from second base after her RBI double against Wahconah in the WMass Division II softball championship game Saturday at Sortino Field in Amherst. for the recorder/jerrey roberts

  • Greenfield’s Samantha Smith, left, is greeted at home by Kirsten Ward after scoring the tie-breaking run in the fifth inning against Wahconah during the WMass Division II softball championship Saturday at Sortino Field in Amherst. for the recorder/jerrey roberts

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/18/2018 11:28:38 PM

One major milestone down, another to go for the Greenfield High School softball team.

After winning the program’s first sectional championship since 1986 in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Wahconah Regional High School in the WMass Division II title game, the Green Wave turn their attention to the state tournament this afternoon.

Greenfield (19-2) returns to Sortino Field on the campus of UMass at 4 p.m. to take on central Mass. champ Leicester High School (18-6) in the MIAA Divivion II semifinals with a spot in Saturday’s state-title game on the line.

Greenfield is 1-2 all-time in the state tournament, with its only win coming in the 1986 semifinal when it beat Bartlett High School, 11-3, before falling in the Division II state-title game to East Freetown Apponequet, 10-0. The Wave’s only other appearance came in 1985 when the Wave fell in the state semis to Quabbin Regional High School, 10-1. There was no state tournament the only other time Greenfield won a sectional championship in 1982.

“I think it was a great win and we’re so excited, but we also have to remember that it’s not over,” explained Greenfield coach Rian Lovett of the WMass title win. “We have to settle back in and be ready to go (today). Now that they know they can win these games, I think they’re ready and they want more. There’s that goal now of states. We hit that Western Mass. goal. Why stop now?”

It’s quick turnaround for Greenfield. After Saturday’s win, the team took Sunday off before holding its lone practice before today’s game on Monday night. Due to the heat index, the Wave were unable to practice until the evening when temperatures were slated to drop.

“We’ve done really well with quick turnarounds,” Lovett offered. “To be honest, it gives the girls less time to think, and the less they have to think, the better they do. They don’t have to overanalyze or stress. They just go out and do it.”

Today’s opponent is playing its best softball at the right time. Leicester enters the state semifinal winners of nine straight games, and the Wolverines won the CMass Division II tourney as the No. 4 seed. They went 4-0 in the sectional tournament, including three shutout wins. That included a 4-0 win over Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School in Saturday’s title game, and a 1-0 win over top-seeded Hudson High School in the semifinal round. The sectional title was the second in school history and first since 2011.

“I expect it to be a close game,” said Lovett. “I haven’t seen or heard all that much about (Leicester) but have no doubt it’s going to be a tough challenge.”

Leicester freshman pitcher Kya Birtz tossed a two-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts in the championship game, so a duel between her and Greenfield junior ace Olivia Joy, who had 11 strikeouts in the win over Wahconah, could be in the cards.

“I don’t expect Olivia to give up a lot of runs, so it’s going to be a grind-it-out game,” Lovett said. “Like I’ve said all season, we have to hit the ball. If we can get some timely hitting, I think we’ll be OK.”

Playing back at UMass is a nice coup for Greenfield. The Wave allowed just two runs in two wins there during the sectional tournament, and the team’s comfort level at Sortino Field is only growing.

“There’s some familiarity with that place now, so I think it will be a little easier going in,” said Lovett.

There should be a solid support system behind Greenfield today, as the community showed up in big numbers for the WMass final. Lovett said the support has been great to see.

“These girls have really seen the town rally around them,” she explained. “It’s a huge accomplishment and the girls are so proud of themselves and should be.”

The winner will meet the winner of the other Division II semifinal between North Reading High School and Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School, set to be played tonight at 7 p.m. at Taunton High School. The state final is Saturday at Worcester State University’s Rockwood Field.


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