Greenfield softball defeats Mt. Greylock to capture second straight WMass Class C title (PHOTOS)

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 05-31-2023 9:04 PM

WESTFIELD — Make it back-to-back Western Mass. Class C championships for the Greenfield softball team. 

Taking on Mount Greylock in the title game Wednesday, Green Wave hurler MacKenzie Paulin was once again at the top of her game. The sophomore allowed an early home run but held the No. 3 Mounties down the rest of the way, striking out 19 and scattering just three hits. 

Conversely, Greenfield’s bats were hot from the jump, as the top-seeded Green Wave knocked 14 hits to cruise to a 16-3 victory in the championship game at Westfield State University.

It’s the sixth Western Mass. title in program history, and the third since 2018. 

“Winning this is great,” Greenfield coach John Hickey said. “Losing this game would have been in the back of our minds going into the state tournament. Winning this gives us a good start. We have a lot of kids back from last year. They all play year round. It’s easy when you have good players. It was a team effort.” 

After a week of rest to close out the regular season, Paulin appears to be hitting top form in the circle just when the Green Wave (16-5) need her most. The 19-punchout performance comes on the heels of a 20 strikeout showing in the semifinals against Franklin Tech, one in which she didn’t allow a run. 

“Looking back maybe resting MacKenzie the last week of the season was a good thing,” Hickey said. “She’s been tough all year. She was tough last year and she’s only getting better. She has two years left and she has good things ahead of her.” 

While it ended a double-digit victory for Greenfield, it was actually Mount Greylock (14-7) that got on the board first. Audrianna Pelkey drew a walk and Emma Newburry crushed a ball that went into the woods over the left field fence to give the Mounties a 2-0 lead after one. 

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Paulin gave up just two hits from that point on. 

“I felt really good out there,” Paulin said. “After the first inning going the way it did it gave me more motivation to perform the way I did after that. I felt really comfortable out there and [catcher] Ainslee [Flynn] called a great game.” 

It didn’t take long for the Greenfield bats to get the lead back. Anna Bucala doubled to open the bottom of the first and stole third, bringing Flynn to the plate. She grounded to the pitcher, but Bucala got caught in a rundown on the play. Trying to race back to third, the throw sailed high, allowing Bucala to score and cutting the lead to 2-1. Flynn was caught stealing on the ensuing at bat. 

Carly Blanchard was hit by a pitch, stole second and was brought home after Paulin blasted a double to deep left field. Amber Bergeron came up and cracked a double of her own, scoring Paulin to give the Green Wave a 3-2 lead after just one inning.

“I feel really confident in my team,” Paulin said. “It gives me more confidence in the circle knowing that they have my back. If something happens they’ll always be there for me.” 

In the second Bucala drew a walk, Flynn singled and Blanchard walked to load the bases for Paulin, who knocked a sacrifice fly to right field to score Bucala and make it a 4-2 game heading into the third. 

Greenfield put three runs up in that third inning. Rachel Dodge got things going with a single, moved to second on an Ivy Rae ground out and made it home after Brielle Widelo singled. Ellis Benitez and Bucala tallied back-to-back singles to load the bases, with Widelo scoring on a passed ball before Flynn knocked a sac fly to right that scored Benitez to give the Green Wave a 7-2 lead. 

Greenfield tacked three runs on in both the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to put the game away. In the fourth Paulin doubled and Dodge plated her on a single. Rae then cracked a single that brought Bergeron — who was hit by pitch — home, and later in the frame Benitez grounded out to knock Dodge in and put the Green Wave ahead, 10-2. 

Blanchard reached on a fielder’s choice in the sixth and Paulin drew a walk. Following a double steal, Bergeron brought both in with a single of her own. Bergeron stole second and Dodge blasted a double that brought her home to make it a 13-3 game heading into the sixth. 

A pair of Green Wave errors helped Greylock get a run back in the top of the sixth. Walks from Benitez, Mackensie Goncalves and Abby Ortiz loaded the bases for Greenfield in the bottom of the frame, with Blanchard grounding out to bring Benitez in. Paulin and Bergeron cracked consecutive singles that scored Goncalves and Ortiz, closing out the scoring. 

The win comes on the day the MIAA Div. 5 state tournament bracket was announced. Greenfield is the No. 1 seed and Greylock earned the No. 2 seed. There’s certainly a chance that this wasn’t the final meeting between the two squads. 

“We played them during the regular season, too, so it was good to face them again,” Paulin said. “We might see them again too.”

Paulin was named the Gary Stacy Most Valuable Player as voted by the media after the game.

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