Photo Gallery | Softball: Pittsfield vs Agawam
AMHERST — One bad inning was all it took to decide Wednesday's Western Mass. Division I softball semifinal between No. 2 Pittsfield and No. 3 Agawam.
Unfortunately for the Generals, they were the ones that suffered through it.
Agawam plated all four of its runs in the top of the second inning, sending the defending-champion Brownies back to the title game, where they beat Pittsfield a year ago.
"We played a good game. We had one bad inning," Pittsfield coach Greg Marchbanks said. "Sometimes, that's what it comes down to — one bad inning."
Agawam's Sierra Kruser led off the inning with a triple, and was brought home by Jenna Beach during the next at-bat to stake Agawam's early lead. Rachel Lapponese followed up with a single, Sam Stratton reached on a fielder's choice, Katie Grasso then reached on an error that allowed Lapponese to score, and Agawam pitcher Allison Wheeler capped the scoring off with a two-run double.
It took just the six batters to end Pittsfield's season at 20-2.
"We knew that [Agawam] had some good at-bats," Pittsfield's Allie Hunt said. "Having a runner in scoring position is always tough because you want to prevent them from scoring and keep everything in front.
"But, you know, runs happen. They were on the better sides of the bats, and just — sucks. But it's life."
At the plate themselves, the Generals couldn't find a consistent rhythm against Wheeler. The senior struck out seven on two hits with two walks and two hit batters. Three of her strikeouts ended innings — including twice with runners in scoring position — and she worked around the threat of Hunt's bat by walking her once and hitting her twice.
"It felt great [getting the win], because they took that game in the beginning of the season," Wheeler said, referencing a 1-0 decision from the regular season. "I knew today, coming in, that I wanted to beat them so bad. They are a very good team, and I think we played them well."
Pittsfield's biggest threat to climb back in the game came in the sixth. After Erin Murphy and Hunt reached to start, the first on an error and the second on a hit by pitch, Hayley Tobin smacked a single to break up a no-hit bid from Wheeler, loading the bases with no outs.
Wheeler, though, got Emily Koldys swinging and forced Abby Santos into a pop-out. Giuliana Pierce gave Pittsfield a shred of hope on an RBI single to plate Murphy, but Wheeler responded with a strikeout on Toni Satrape to leave the bases juiced.
"We have a young team, and they wouldn't pitch to Allie," Marchbanks said. "Hayley comes through and gets a hit, Giuliana gets a hit, then we have some of our other ones that it did look like they were swinging for the fence.
"They learned from it, that's what you have to do."
Agawam started the game by putting runners on second and third, but Koldys got Gianna Perella swinging to end the initial threat.
Outside of the second, the senior pitcher either kept Agawam from threatening, or in the case of a bases-loaded situation in the fifth, Koldys started a 1-2-3 double play on a comebacker to the circle.
Koldys finished with three strikeouts on seven hits and three walks.
The loss snaps a 20-game winning streak for the Generals, and marks the end for seniors Hunt, Koldys and Emma Lacey.
Hunt, a three-sport athlete for the Generals, tried putting the end of her career into words.
"It's crazy, it's been a long, long time coming," Hunt said. "It's kind of not real that it's done right now, but it will probably hit me later tonight."
Agawam will play for the Division I title on Saturday against Westfield.
Allison Wheeler and Sierra Kruser, Emily Koldys and Hayley Tobin. W—Wheeler, L—Koldys. 2B — A 1 (Wheeler). 3B — A 1 (Kruser).