Pittsfield softball's mindset, arsenal of abilities push Generals by West Springfield into Western Mass. D-I title game
AMHERST — The Pittsfield softball team's single-minded focus has propelled it back to the place where its season ended in heartbreak last year.
All season long, the Generals have leaned on the Belichickian motto of "focusing on the next game," to avoid looking too far ahead.
Game in and game out, the Generals have defeated every opponent in front of them, and now, after taking out West Springfield 6-0 in Tuesday's Western Massachusetts Division I semifinal, the next game truly is the biggest. They advance to the D-I championship, where they'll face No. 3 Northampton, Saturday, 11 a.m. at UMass.
"It feels great," Pittsfield starting pitcher Giuliana Pierce said of heading back to the Western Mass. final. "Being my senior year, it's like our last chance. I know we're ready for it. I'm so excited to see what we do and it's going to be an awesome experience."
The to-seeded Generals (21-0) used a complete team effort to defeat the five-seed Terriers (12-10). Pierce was stellar on the mound, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out one. Her defense was perfect behind her, playing error-free ball, and the offense played the smart, but aggressive softball that's been its signature all season.
Pierce showed the poise and composure of a senior in the circle. She fielded her position well and consistently hit the spots set up by senior battery-mate Hayley Tobin. To her credit, West Side freshman Crystal Madore did not seem rattled by the stage either. Her ability to change speeds and mix pitches kept Pittsfield from making much hard contact.
Pittsfield's inability to really drive the ball forced it to manufacture offense.
Tess Lyon's fourth-inning RBI single up the middle was one of two run-producing hits to leave the infield, putting the No. 1 seed up 1-0. In the fifth, Madison Tobin's grounder caused an error by the West Side shortstop, allowing two runs to score. Lyon led off the the sixth with an infield single. Szofia Lewis followed with a grounder to first, forcing another error and putting runners on the corners. Britney Perkett and Lyon executed a squeeze play perfectly, with Perkett dropping down the bunt and Lyon timing her break home for a run. Natasha Shade and Lewis executed another squeeze play during the ensuing at bat for another run. Hayley Tobin's sacrifice fly plated Perkett for Pittsfield's final run.
Shade led Pittsfield going 3 for 4 with an RBI. Lyon went 2 for 3 with an RBI. McMahon went 2 for 3 with two runs scored.
Pittsfield didn't have an extra-base hit during the game, but their ability to play small ball showed this unbeaten squad doesn't need power to get where they're going.
"It says a lot about us and how diverse we are," Shade said. "Each one of us do different things, we have our own jobs and what to get done. It says that we're different all around."
Their multidimensional offense will make them tough to beat. The General were shutout in their 4-0 championship-game loss to Minnechaug last season.
Now, the Generals have power from clean-up hitter McMahon all they way down to No. 9 hitter Jordyn Lummus. Hayley Tobin is a consistent run producer and Pierce is one of the best hitting pitchers in Western Mass. Even with all the deadly bats in the lineup, the 1-2 duo of Perkett and Shade are the catalyst of the offense. Their speed can swing the momentum of a game quickly, and Pittsfield coach Greg Marchbanks loves to put them in positions to run.
"We've got into a situation which is our strength; playing small ball and having situations on the base paths to see exactly how well the other team can play softball," he said. "Because that's what we did. How well do you know the game? And can you do it quickly? I'd put the chances [low] for high school kids to make decisions quickly. It's hard."
Marchbanks added that the team's confidence is high heading into the championship game. Pittsfield and Northampton met during the regular season with the Generals earning a 13-0 win over the Blue Devils.
The Pittsfield players have confidence, and through years of playing together — from youth leagues, to travel ball and up through high school — they have trust in each other. The trust to know that the person next to them will come through when they need them to. Trust and confidence will be a hard combination to top come Saturday.
"It's just a matter of staying fine-tuned and going out there and believing in ourselves," Marchbanks said.
West Side 000 000 0 — 0 4 3
Pittsfield 000 123 x — 6 11 0
Crystal Madore and Shannon Larochelle. Giuliana Pierce and Hayley Tobin. WP — Pierce. LP — Madore. 2B — Bailey Manning.
Akeem Glaspie can be reached at email@example.com, at @TheAkeemGlaspie on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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