Championship special for Greenfield coach John Hickey

  • Greenfield heach coach John Hickey encourages pitcher MacKenzie Paulin and catcher Kelsey Richardson in between innings against West Boylston during the MIAA Division 5 state championship softball game Friday at UMass Amherst’s Sortino Field. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield heach coach John Hickey encourages pitcher MacKenzie Paulin and catcher Kelsey Richardson in between innings against West Boylston during the MIAA Division 5 state championship softball game Friday at UMass Amherst’s Sortino Field. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield heach coach John Hickey coaches from third base against West Boylston during the MIAA Division 5 state championship softball game Friday at UMass Amherst’s Sortino Field. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield poses for a team photo after winning the MIAA Division 5 state championship softball game 6-2 against West Boylston on Friday at Sortino Field at UMass Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/17/2022 8:50:53 PM
Modified: 6/17/2022 8:50:42 PM

AMHERST — Even for a veteran coach like John Hickey, it’s hard not to have the butterflies before a state championship game. 

It was the first state championship game Hickey — who also heads the girls basketball team at Greenfield — has coached in. No Green Wave softball player was alive the last time Greenfield made it to a state title game in 1986, so the nerves were to be expected going into Friday’s Div. 5 title game against West Boylston. 

The pressure of playing in a game of such magnitude was amplified after the Eagles scored twice in the first inning. After three innings, the Green Wave didn’t have a hit at the plate. 

All that anxiety was relieved in the fourth inning, with Greenfield going off for six runs to ultimately pull away with a 6-2 victory. Despite the rocky start, there was never a loss of belief in the Greenfield dugout. 

“It was awesome to win this,” Hickey said. “I was nervous myself. I knew we had it in us and had the ability to get things done. We finally came alive in that fourth inning and showed that we can really hit the ball.”

The win is extra special for Hickey. It’s been a challenging season for the longtime coach, as he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease this spring. 

His players had his back, wearing bows during the game to show their support for their coach. 

“It’s been a tough spring for me with my diagnosis of Parkinson’s,” Hickey said. “I didn’t know the kids were wearing bows in their hair for me. It made it fun going to practice every day. It gave me a boost of energy every day getting to work with these kids. I love them all.” 

Hickey says his assistant coach, Andy Rup, is a big reason for the Green Wave’s successful season. 

“I couldn’t have done this without Andy Rup,” Hickey said. “He’s key. The kids love him, he knows the game and we get along great. I’m blessed to have him on my coaching staff.” 

Just as Hickey never lost faith in his team on Friday, the Greenfield players had faith they had the team to get the job done. Being the No. 1 seed in the tournament comes with expectations but the Green Wave didn’t let that bother them. 

“I knew that there was a lot of pressure on us being the No. 1 seed,” Green Wave pitcher MacKenzie Paulin said. “We’re expected to win the game. After the first inning I took a deep breath, settled in and I felt a lot more comfortable after that.”

It’s easy to see why Greenfield never lost faith in itself. The Green Wave went 12-6 during the regular season, took home a Western Mass. Class C title to earn the top seed in the Div. 5 tournament. 

With the way it had been hitting the ball all season, it was only a matter of time before the bats got going on Friday. 

“We really didn’t let it get the best of us,” senior Kaitlin Lavoine said. “We knew we could come back and win. We just kept believing in ourselves. When we came up to bat we just made good contact and saw what happened. We played pretty good defense and MacKenzie was great with her pitching.”

Once the bats got going, the hits came quick. Carly Blanchard, Kelsey Richardson, Rachel Dodge, Ainslee Flynn, Anna Bucala, Amber Bergeron and Kaitlin Lavoine alll came through with hits in the fourth inning, the frame that sealed the victory for the Green Wave. 

“It showed a lot of fight that we came back like that,” Paulin said. “The talk in the dugout was that we’re only in the third inning. We have plenty of time to come back. We scored six runs in that one inning and that was a great inning that opened things up. We felt a lot more comfortable and confident after that. I had faith in our offense. I thought we could hop right on her. Once we got a few that’s what we did.”

Since the start of the season the Green Wave knew they had the talent to go far. Like all championship teams, it didn’t matter what type of adversity they faced, they just kept pushing forward and finding ways to win games and keep their season alive. 

“In the beginning of the season when we had tryouts, I looked around and saw we had a lot of great talent here,” Lavoine said. “Throughout the season we just kept winning and winning. We had some losses but those never brought us down. When it came to tournament time, we looked at who we had played, who we could potentially play and we knew we had this. Ever since we started Western Mass. we always knew this was the end goal and we believed in ourself to get to this point.” 


Jobs



Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.


Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
 

 

Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy