Div. 5 softball: Greenfield prepares for championship game showdown with West Boylston

  • Greenfield’s Kailtin Lavoine drives in two runs with an RBI triple against Frontier in the bottom of the second inning during the MIAA Div. 5 state semifinals Wednesday at Westfield State University. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/16/2022 6:40:16 PM
Modified: 6/16/2022 6:38:02 PM

There isn’t a state softball championship banner hanging in Nichols Gymnasium.

There’s a chance that changes on Friday. 

Greenfield entered the Div. 5 state tournament as the No. 1 seed and has looked the part. It opened with a 24-1 rout of No. 32 Ware in the Round of 32, had a tough test in the Round of 16 against No. 16 Maynard but came away with a 3-2 victory and in the Round of 8, cruised to a 15-0 win over No. 9 Hopedale, the defending Central Mass. champions. 

The Green Wave faced rival Frontier on Wednesday in the semis and behind a strong day at the plate and terrific pitching from MacKenzie Paulin, came out with an 11-2 victory to move onto the finals. 

Standing in the way of Greenfield lifting its first banner is No. 3 West Boylston, who is coming off a 2-0 win over Turners Falls in the semis. 

First pitch is set for 3 p.m. on Friday at Sortino Field on the UMass campus. 

“I’m excited for the kids,” Green Wave coach John Hickey said. “This will be a great experience for them. I’m excited for our school, our kids, our community. I know these girls are going to represent Greenfield well (today).” 

It’s been a year to remember for the Green Wave. Greenfield went 12-6 in the regular season while playing in a fierce Franklin County West League that had four teams — the Green Wave, Turners, Frontier and Wahconah — reach the state semifinals. It carried over that success into the postseason by winning three games to take home the Western Mass. Class C title. 

With a team that features just two seniors, the hope is that all this success becomes the norm for Greenfield. Hickey has been reminding his team to appreciate the moment, knowing there’s no guarantee a chance to play for a state title will happen again. After all, it’s just the Green Wave’s second state title game appearance, their lone trip being in 1984 which resulted in a 10-0 loss to East Freetown Apponequet. 

“We talked a week ago at the start of the tournament about not taking this for granted,” Hickey said. “The message was to take advantage of this situation and enjoy it. It doesn’t happen every year. I told them to take full advantage of this opportunity.” 

West Boylston is well accustomed to Western Mass. softball. Its road to the finals included wins over Mt. Everett, Hopkins and Hoosac before topping the Thunder in the semifinals. 

Lions coach John Pajer said after Tuesday’s win over Turners that he didn’t know much about either Greenfield or Frontier, but was hoping to drive out to see them play on Wednesday. Either way, he’s knows he has a team who won’t be intimidated by whoever they face. 

“I don’t know anything about either one of those teams,” Pajer said on Tuesday. “We know in Div. 5 the West is really strong. They seem to be really into softball. Our guys are into it too. They weren’t intimidated coming out here but they knew what they were going up against. That was a really good team we had to beat.”

West Boylston’s defense helped win it the game against the Thunder, as Turners stranded 10 runners on base in the loss. That’s the strategy the Lions apply, making the opposition work for every run they get. 

So far, it’s worked. West Boylston allowed one run to Mt. Everett and Hopkins and shut out Hoosac and Turners to reach the finals. 

“When you get to this level with the best teams playing, you want to force them to three or four hits before they get a run in an inning,” Pajer said on Tuesday. “With the pitching we have and the defense we have, we can usually do that. We’re not perfect but we’re on a roll and we’ll keep riding it. We’ll have to get our bats going the next game.”

That strategy will be put to the test on Friday. Greenfield has been a menace at the plate for opposing pitchers, scoring 262 runs in its 25 games for an average of 10.5 per game. It’s turned it up in the postseason, averaging 11.6 runs per game in its seven tournament games. 

The Green Wave — who have gotten production from their entire lineup all season — will have to keep that going to bring home the title. 

“We have to play good defense,” Hickey said. “We’re going to have to score five or six runs and try to keep them off the scoreboard if we want to win this game. Their infield is really solid. They’re athletic. Their pitcher throws pretty decent. She has a good changeup and we have to be disciplined up there at the plate. We have to lay off anything above our hands. We’ll have to stay back on the fastball and react to the changeup she throws.” 

The Greenfield bats have been going and Paulin has been virtually unhittable in the circle. The freshman has three shutouts in seven games since the Western Mass. tournament began, giving up an average of 1.1 runs per contest to the opponent. 

“She’s been pitching well all season and pitching really well as of late,” Hickey said of his ace. “We’re confident in her to do her job and be a leader out there.” 

With the way the season has gone, the Green Wave are feeling good about where they are heading into Friday. 

“The kids are confident,” Hickey said. “They’re excited. They’re ready to give 100 percent tomorrow. We have a lot of respect for this West Boylston team but we’re going in confident and ready to go.” 


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