Indians defend state crown, 2-0

  • Turners Falls slugger Jenna Putala is all business as she starts her swing against Austin Prep Saturday during the Indians’ 2-0 state Division III championship victory at Worcester State University’s Rockwood Field. RECORDER STAFF/MATT BURKHARTT

  • Turners Falls hitter Mackenzie Phillips attacks a pitch Saturday during the Indians’ 2-0 win over Austin Prep for the state Division III softball championship at Worcester State University's Rockwood Field. RECORDER STAFF/MATT BURKHARTT

  • Turners Falls batter Abby Loynd takes a cut against Austin Prep Saturday during her Indians’ 2-0 state Division III softball championship win at Worcester State University's Rockwood Field. RECORDER STAFF/MATT BURKHARTT

  • Hailey Whipple and Turners Falls athletic director Adam Graves share an embrace after the Indians defeated Austin Prep, 2-0, Saturday for the state Division III softball championship at Worcester State University's Rockwood Field. RECORDER STAFF/MATT BURKHARTT

  • Turners Falls’ postseason pitcher extraordinaire Mackenzie Phillips lets one fly at an Austin Prep batter from around her hip Saturday during a two-hit, 13-strikeout, 2-0 win Saturday for the state Division III softball championship at Worcester State University’s Rockwood Field. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/19/2016 11:03:07 PM

WORCESTER — Mackenzie Phillips registered the clutch performance she’s been known for, and Jenna Putala couldn’t have scripted a better situation in which to deliver the most important hit of her career.

The Turners Falls High School senior tandem closed out their fabulous careers in grand fashion as the Indians blanked Austin Preparatory School, 2-0, to capture back-to-back MIAA Division III state softball championships Saturday at Rockwood Field on the campus of Worcester State University.

With the win, Turners (24-1) won its eighth state softball championship and pulled into a tie with Bishop Fenwick High School of Peabody for the most state softball titles in Massachusetts history.

The North Shore Crusaders won the Division II crown in 1985 and seven consecutive Division I titles between 1990 and 1996.

Phillips, the Indians’ senior right-handed pitcher, put the finishing touches on her high school career by firing a two-hitter with 13 strikeouts and no walks. She hit one batter.

“Mac is our ticket,” said Indians Hall-of-Fame head coach Gary Mullins. “When she’s needed to make pitches, she figures out a way.”

Cougars sophomore pitcher Logan MacDonald was just as impressive, hurling a one-hitter with 12 strikeouts and just one free pass in six innings. She retired five of her final nine batters by strikeout.

Austin Prep’s Waterloo occurred in the third inning when Turners got its only hit and scored a pair of unearned runs.

MacDonald had struck out the first two batters before leadoff hitter Aly Murphy hit a routine ground ball to third for what appeared to be a routine 1-2-3 inning. However, third baseman Francesca Frelick’s throw sailed over the head of first baseman Kylie Currier and Murphy immediately turned and raced for second. She slid in safely ahead of a high throw.

Putala made the Cougars pay for the miscue by lining a rocket down the left-field line that rolled to the fence for a double that scored Murphy and gave the Indians a 1-0 lead.

“I was just looking for a pitch to hit, honestly,” said a beaming Putala afterward. “I wasn’t thinking there was a runner on second or anything else, I was thinking about putting the ball in play. I’ve been in a slump, and to hit that ball was huge. I’m glad I got to do this my last time here.”

Putala moved to third on a passed ball before Gabby Arzuaga hit a routine grounder that shortstop Liana Tamagna bobbled, allowing Putala to score the second run and Arzuaga to reach first. Although courtesy runner Lexi Lacey was caught stealing for the final out, the Indians had the lead they were looking for.

“(Jenna) is a proud kid and wants to do well, and when she doesn’t do well she feels like she’s letting the team down,” said Mullins. “So she got a chance to pop one and she did. She struggled, she fought, her arm has been sore, it’s been a battle, but she got the huge hit for us.”

Phillips was ecstatic for her classmate’s huge moment.

“That’s what we love about her,” she said of Putala. “That was an awesome hit. She works so hard on her hitting, and it shows. I’m always really confident whenever she’s at bat, because she’s got a great mind-set.

“I’m not surprised that she was the one who hit that for us, but I’m very thankful that she did.”

Phillips was flawless the rest of the way, retiring the next nine batters and 12 of the final 13.

There was a bit of tension in the seventh, when Melissa Hersey originally snagged a line drive off the bat of Frelick but couldn’t hang on (the play was ruled an error), allowing Frelick to reach second. Phillips was able to get Kylie Currier to ground out to short, then fanned Tamagna and Rebecca Lowe swinging to ignite yet another Indian championship celebration.

Phillips said nerves were never an issue.

“I was totally calm,” she said. “When I come here I listen to music that’s totally mellow, and just blank everything out. I didn’t even know what inning it was until the seventh.”

Austin Prep’s biggest threat came in the top of the third. Caroline Sablone hit a flare just over the glove of shortstop Cassidhe Wozniak for a leadoff single. After Phillips struck out ninth hitter Julie Barthelmess, eighth-grader Lauren Sablone sacrificed her older sister to second.

After Phillips hit Kendra Currier with a pitch, Turners tried to run a pickoff play at first but Currier dove back safely and Caroline Sablone raced to third. On the next pitch, Currier raced halfway to second and stopped, trying to draw a throw from catcher Gabby Arzuaga, but she didn’t bite and threw the ball back to Phillips. Philips then struck out Flagg to end the threat.

“(Turners) is a great team with a very good pitcher,” said Cougars coach Frank Sorrenti. “We faced similar pitching in our league and we were ready, but we just couldn’t get it going today. They played well and we lost to a very good team.”

Flagg’s two-out line single past Phillips’ glove in the first was the only other hit for the Cougars (22-4).

“I thought they played a terrific ballgame,” said Mullins of his fallen foe. “They didn’t back down, they showed some courage and they had some opportunities. But like I said, Mac’s our ticket, and she punched it for us.”


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