Wave secures first crown since 1986

  • Greenfield pitcher Olivia Joy runs to her catcher at the end of her team’s 2-1 win against Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division II softball championship game Saturday at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Elizabeth Howland, of Greenfield, earns a walk after being struck by a pitch during her game against Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Greenfield’s Raquel Provost is struck by a pitch during her game against Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division II softball championship game Saturday at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Olivia Joy, of Greenfield, pitches to Wahconah during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Greenfield catcher Elizabeth Howland can't reach a throw to home and Abby Wells, of Wahconah, logs a home run, her team's only run of the game in the first inning, Saturday, June 16, 2018 during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Raegan Hickey, of Greenfield, catches a hit by Wahconah during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Heather Catlin, of Greenfield, bats against Wahconah during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. She earned a walk during this at-bat. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Olivia Joy, of Greenfield, pitches to Wahconah during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The Greenfield team celebrates with their trophy after their 2-1 win against Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Elizabeth Howland, of Greenfield, watches at hit that earned her a double against Wahconah during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The Greenfield team celebrates with their trophy after their 2-1 win against Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Greenfield catcher Elizabeth Howland catches a foul ball hit by Kaitlyn Olds, of Wahconah, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Samantha Smith, right, of Greenfield, is greeted at home by Kirsten Ward after scoring the tie-breaking run in the fifth inning against Wahconah during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The Greenfield team celebrates with their trophy after their 2-1 win against Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Greenfield catcher Elizabeth Howland accepts the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship trophy from Mike Kuchieski, the tournament director, Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Greenfield catcher Olivia Joy accepts the Gary Stacy Most Valuable Player award form Ed Kolasienski, the site director of the tournament, after her team's 2-1 win against Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Samantha Smith, left, of Greenfield, forces out a Wahconah runner at third during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Greenfield catcher Elizabeth Howland, right, and Olivia Joy, the pitcher, celebrate at the end of their 2-1 win against Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Greenfield catcher Elizabeth Howland, left, and Olivia Joy, the pitcher, celebrate at the end of their 2-1 win against Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division II softball championship game Saturday at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Greenfield catcher Elizabeth Howland, left, and Olivia Joy, the pitcher, celebrate at the end of their 2-1 win against Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The Greenfield team celebrates with their trophy after their 2-1 win against Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Samantha Smith, of Greenfield, scores the tie-breaking run in the fifth inning against Wahconah on a hit by Elizabeth Howland during the the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Samantha Smith, left, of Greenfield, is greeted at home by Kirsten Ward after scoring the tie-breaking run in the fifth inning against Wahconah during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship Saturday, June 16, 2018 at Sortino Field in Amherst. FOR THE RECORDER/JERREY ROBERTS

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/16/2018 7:15:28 PM

AMHERST — Riding the right arm of Olivia Joy, a Green Wave crashed down on a 32-year drought Saturday afternoon.

For the first time since 1986, the Greenfield High School softball team cashed in on a championship Saturday. The top-seeded Wave overcame a lead-off inside-the-park home run, and received yet another dynamic pitching performance from its ace to capture a nail-biting 2-1 victory over No. 3 Wahconah Regional High School in the WMass Div. II final at Sortino Field on the campus of UMass.

“It’s unbelievable,” explained Greenfield head coach Rian Lovett of the title, the fourth all-time for the program. “This is something you work for all season and to finally win it… I’ve been on the player side losing it and on the coaching side losing it and to finally win it is unbelievable. I am so proud of these girls, so happy for these girls. This is the perfect culmination of this year because they are unbelievable, all of them. Every single one of them has stepped up at some point this year, made a play, hit the ball and everybody deserves to be so happy and so proud of themselves right now.”

Joy, the unassuming junior pitcher who further etched her name into Greenfield lore with her postseason performance, struck out 11 batters in Saturday’s final. That included the final batter of the game, as Joy whirled a rising fastball past Wahconah first baseman Julia O’Connor to seal the deal and set off a celebration 32 years in the making.

“It felt so good to get that strikeout (to end it),” offered Joy, who was selected by the media as the Gary Stacy Most Valuable Player following the victory. “We worked so hard and for (a championship) to be the result, it’s awesome.”

Greenfield (19-2) advanced to Tuesday’s MIAA Div. II semifinal, set to be played back at UMass at 4 p.m. against Leicester High School (18-6), which defeated Blackstone Valley Technical High School, 4-0, for the Central Mass. Div. II title on Saturday.

Getting off to a fast start was key in Greenfield’s 5-1 win over Hampshire Regional High School in Thursday’s WMass semifinal.

The tides turned in a big way Saturday, however.

Wahconah’s Abby Wells led off the game with an inside-the-park home run off the center field fence for the Warriors. The deep fly got just over the head of center fielder Kirsten Ward, and the ricochet came bounding toward the infield. By the time Ward was able to track it down the Wave relay to home was too late, enabling Wells to charge all the way around for an inside-the-parker that staked Wahconah (16-7) to a quick 1-0 advantage.

Joy buckled down however, striking out the next two batters she faced and quickly sending the Wave back into the dugout.

“It definitely was deflating but it shows our character that she was able to come back,” Lovett said. “I think (Joy) struck out the next batter or the next two batters. I saw (the home run) happen and I was like, ‘Oh crap,’ but I knew that wasn’t going to be it. I knew that we could hit the ball. There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to score runs today. I didn’t think they were going to be this hard to come by but I had confidence.”

Joy said she wasn’t particularly worried after the first-inning homer.

“I just focused in after that,” she stated. “When she hit that, it was still the first inning. Seven innings is a lot of time to make up for it.”

Greenfield assistant coach Taylor Lively, who calls the pitches for Greenfield, had a brief discussion with Joy when she came off the field following Wells’ home run.

“We had a quick conversation about how well she managed to come back from it,” Lively recalled. “Two strikeouts, she didn’t let it get to her any more than she needed to. I told her, ‘It happens. You were nervous. Now come back from it and let’s go.’”

Greenfield battled right back in the bottom of the second. Lizzy Howland was hit by a Wells pitch to lead off the frame, and she took second when Ward laid down a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, freshman Gianna Conte continued her postseason tear with a two-strike, RBI double down the third base line that plated Howland to pull the Wave even, 1-1.

“In these situations, I know I have to come up when I’m needed,” Conte said of the RBI. “There’s definitely nerves coming in as a freshman and playing here but I try and stay calm when I’m up there as best as I can.”

The inning could’ve yielded more damage, as Heather Catlin walked and Racquel Provost was hit by a pitch in the helmet to load the bases. Wells escaped further damage however, striking out Audrey Bresciano on a fastball upstairs to keep things level.

Missed opportunities continued to plague the Wave early. In the bottom of the third, Kelsey Richardson singled and Howland followed with a ringing double to the right center field gap. Richardson was held at third on the play however, putting two runners in scoring position with one out. Wells again buckled down, this time recording back-to-back strikeouts of Ward and Raegan Hickey to quell the threat.

The dam finally broke in the bottom of the fifth inning. No. 3 hitter Samantha Smith roped a lead-off double, and with one out, Howland struck an RBI single sharply back up the middle to give Greenfield its first lead of the day, 2-1.

“I even told (Smith) before the inning even started, I said to myself, if Sam’s getting on base she’s getting home and that’s just what we did,” recalled Howland of the go-ahead RBI. “I knew we needed to do it if we wanted to win the game.”

Seeing Howland, unquestionably one of the leaders in the Greenfield dugout, come through in the clutch was not surprising to Lovett.

“She’s unbelievable,” the coach gushed about her catcher. “She has just been that force behind the plate, the voice, the presence, just the spirit… everything. She embodies the whole team and what we are and she just takes that role on and everybody looks up to her, everybody … she’s the leader out there.”

Joy was six outs away from pitching Greenfield to a championship, but trouble loomed. An error on a bunted ball to open the top of the sixth allowed Hailey Lenski to reach base, and Wells worked a walk to put a pair of runners on base with no outs. After Howland gunned out a runner at third base on a bunt for the first out however, a Joy wild pitch enabled Warriors to advance to second and third base.

Facing No. 3 hitter Jess Warren, Joy dug in. She blew a pitch by the Wahconah catcher for the second out of the frame, and got Emma Parkington to hit a soft-liner to second baseman Hickey for the all-important third out that retired the side with the tying and go-ahead runs stranded in scoring position.

“She did what she needed to do and I knew in that situation she was going to be able to do that,” said Lovett of Joy’s escape. “Honestly, I don’t think she was going to let that run score. She was going to do everything in her power to keep those runners in.”

Wahconah’s final at-bat in the top of the seventh proved fruitless. Joy retired the first two batters in order, setting up the strikeout of O’Connor to send the title 32 years in the making back to Barr Ave.

“Honestly, I was like, “She’s got this,’” said Lovett of Joy’s final batter. “There is no way she is going to let up on this pitch. (The last pitch she) probably threw the hardest she’s thrown all day. I knew when she got through the heart of the order in the sixth inning and I knew coming into the seventh she was going to be able to cruise through and really take advantage and throw hard.”

Howland, Smith and Conte all had two hits in the win, with all three recording doubles. Greenfield held a 7-2 edge in hits, as Joy limited Wahconah to just a second-inning bunt single after the lead-off home run.

“She hit her spots so well and her speed was awesome today,” said pitching coach Lively, who said Joy was hovering between 59-60 miles per hour on her fastball. “She was on fire. Everything worked. I’d say it was the best game she’s thrown all year, with everything on the line.”

Greenfield’s WMass title was the fourth in program history, adding to the list of 1986, 1985 and 1982. The Wave improved to 4-7 all-time in sectional championship games.




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