Veteran Turners Falls softball team ready to roll

  • Turners Falls softball coach Gary Mullins talks with his team during the 2019 MIAA Division 3 state final at Worcester State University. The Thunder returned to the diamond for the first time since that game on Monday, as spring practices kicked off throughout Franklin County. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 4/27/2021 2:41:39 PM

It felt like an eternity since the Turners Falls softball team had last gotten together for an official practice. 

With the 2020 spring sports season canceled due to COVID-19, spring athletes have had to wait nearly two years to get back with their teams. 

The long hiatus ended Monday as the spring season got underway in Western Mass.. Teams like the Thunder were champing at the bit to get back out on the diamond.

“It was great to be back,” Turners Falls senior Jade Tyler said. “Missing last year, it’s just exciting to be back out here. It’s been too long to be away from here.”  

The last time Turners was together on the field came during the 2019 Div. 3 state championship game, where the Thunder fell just short of taking home the title against Austin Prep in a 3-0 loss.

The program has had a lot of time to sit on that loss. Thankfully, with Western Mass. and state tournaments returning this spring — which wasn’t the case for the previous seasons this school year — the Thunder have a chance to get back to the title tilt.

“A lot of us are coming back wanting to win states again like we did my eighth grade year,” senior Taylor Murphy said of the 2017 state title. “We want to get back there again. We made it there last time out (in 2019) and fell short so that’s the goal. Every year that’s the goal no matter the circumstances.”

Much of the team that won the Western Mass. title two years ago was comprised of sophomores. Now seniors, it’s a veteran group with their eyes on the prize.

Like most teams this spring however, Turners doesn’t have the numbers it has had in the past. Just 25 players showed up for the first day of practice on Monday, enough for a JV and varsity team, but not enough to have a middle school squad. 

“I’ve been doing this for a long time but this is definitely a different show,” Thunder coach Gary Mullins said. “Our numbers are awful.” 

Had there been a season in 2020, Turners certainly would have been in contention for another Western Mass. and state title.

Not getting to play then has only fueled the fire for this year, where the large Thunder senior contingent knows this is their final chance to raise a banner.

“There’s definitely more motivation this year,” Tyler said. “We’re doing everything we can to get there. I’m ready to play. I can’t wait for our first game. It’s been a while.” 

While there might have been a two-year break between seasons, for many on the Turners roster, Monday wasn’t the first time they’ve touched a bat in those two years. A vast majority have played in the summer, fall or winter to stay sharp and get ready for the high school season.

Still, there was a different level of energy at Monday’s practice getting back on the field with teammates. With the regular season kicking off in less than two weeks, the Thunder understand they don’t have much time to knock the rust off. 

“We got to play in the winter a little bit but it’s just nice to be back with our Turners Falls team,” Murphy said. “We want to do everything we can to prepare for the season. We have to cram everything in, focus on the fundamentals and get going. We have some younger girls on the team so we’re just trying to get them up to the level where they can take over once we leave. 

“We’ve been playing but we don’t play every day with school and work. We were definitely a little rusty but we shook some of that off today.”

One of the biggest losses from the 2019 team was star catcher Aly Murphy, who graduated in 2020 and currently plays at Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y. That position is one Mullins hopes to fill before games get underway, and if they can find a capable catcher, Mullins said his optimism level is high for this particular club.

“There were kids who have been playing in the fall who look good,” Mullins said. “If we can find a catcher we’ll be a good softball team. We have some athletes.”

Turners is set to open May 6 against Pioneer. The home opener is May 11 against Greenfield.


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