Division 3 softball: Turners seeks 16th straight semifinal win

  • Turners Falls’ Taylor Murphy throws to first baseman Lexi Lacey during action earlier this season. The top-seeded Thunder tangle with No. 4 Mount Greylock today at 3 p.m. in the WMass Division 3 semifinal round at Sortino Field on the campus of UMass. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Olivia Whittier, last year’s postseason MVP, and the Turners Falls softball team are back at UMass today at 3 p.m. for a Division 3 semifinal game against Mount Greylock. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/11/2019 9:05:35 PM

The path toward a potential sixth consecutive sectional championship continues for the Turners Falls High School softball team today.

The top-seeded Thunder (19-2), which hasn’t lost a WMass tournament game since the 2013 final against Mount Everett, return to familiar Sortino Field on the campus of UMass for a 3 p.m. Division 3 semifinal matchup with No. 4 Mount Greylock (11-10).

Today’s game marks the second year in a row the two teams will meet in the semifinals. It’s almost a carbon copy of last year’s game, as top-seeded Turners picked up a 12-3 win over No. 4 Greylock. The Powertown went on to beat Mount Everett for the Division 3 crown.

Turners’ history in the WMass semifinal round has been, not surprisingly, quite impressive. The Thunder have won 15 consecutive semifinal games, dating all the way back to the 2003 postseason when the squad fell to rival Greenfield, 4-3. Since that time, the Powertown has outscored semifinal opponents by a commanding 113-21 margin, pitching six shutouts during that 15-year span.

Today’s game marks the fourth time in five years Turners will play a Berkshire County school in the semifinal round. Along with last year’s Greylock game, it also played Mount Everett in both 2015 (4-0 win) and 2016 (3-1 win).

The winner will play in Saturday’s final, set for 11 a.m. back at UMass.

Tournament history

As mentioned earlier, it’s the second year in a row the two teams will meet for a spot in the Division 3 championship game.

In last year’s game, a 13-hit attack, including three hits each from Aly Murphy and Olivia Whittier, sent the Thunder to a 12-3 win in an otherwise sloppy performance by Turners’ standards. The team led 3-0 early only to watch Greylock take advantage of some miscues to pull even at 3-3. The offense bailed them out, scoring nine unanswered runs for the 12-3 win.

Regardless, there’s certainly a postseason familiarity between the two programs. In addition to last year’s meeting, the teams met in 2015 when the Thunder rolled to a 5-1 win in the quarterfinal round. Today will indeed mark the third time the teams will play in the postseason in the past five years.

Path to UMass

Turners had little trouble punching its ticket to Sortino Field. After receiving a first-round bye, the squad needed just five innings to eliminate No. 8 Gateway, 16-2, in the quarterfinal round Sunday night at the Bourdeau Fields Complex.

The Mounties also earned a bye before winning a slugfest in the quarterfinal round on Sunday. Greylock outlasted No. 5 Hopkins Academy, 12-7, in Williamstown.

Mount Greylock went 10-10 during the regular season, and the team entered the postseason on a three-game losing streak with all of those defeats coming by one run (Mount Everett, Taconic, Drury). Throughout the regular season, the Mounties played just three teams from outside of the Berkshires. They swept games against Monson, and took care of business in a 13-5 victory over Frontier back on May 25.

Players to watch

Mount Greylock pitcher Lily Lesieur is no stranger to Franklin County. Lesieur was a top player at Mohawk Trail before transferring to the Williamstown school. Her sister Mya was the Mohawk pitcher this season.

Lily Lesieur struck out seven in a complete-game victory over Frontier back in May, though the Red Hawks managed 12 hits against her. Hopkins amassed 10 hits in the quarterfinal round. In last year’s semifinal loss, she allowed 13 hits and 12 runs against Turners.

Offensively, Alyssa Phelps smacked four hits and Kamryn Sweet had three hits in the team’s quarterfinal victory. Coach June Blake’s team has done the bulk of its work this season at the plate, scoring five or more runs on 11 different occasions. 

Turners is led by sophomore Jade Tyler, who will get the start in the pitching circle and also provide the Thunder with a middle-of-the-order bat. In last year’s semifinal against Greylock, Tyler clubbed a two-run home run over the fence at UMass in the second inning.

The Powertown is loaded up and down the lineup, with the likes of Cassidhe Wozniak, Taylor Murphy, Aly Murphy and Olivia Whittier setting the table atop the order.

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