Turners Falls softball shuts down Hoosac Valley for Western Mass. D-III title

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AMHERST — For the second time this postseason, the No. 4 Hoosac Valley softball team had to endure a rain delay.

Unlike the first, though, Saturday's rain delay did not bring about a win.

The Hurricanes fell to No. 2 Turners Falls 7-0 in the Western Mass. Division III championship game at Sortino Field at UMass, recording just one hit against a dominant Mackenzie Phillips.

The game took four hours to play, mainly because of a one-hour, 48-minute rain delay. Play was stopped in the bottom of the second after Melissa Hersey drove in Cassidhi Wozniak for Turners' opening run.

When play resumed, Hoosac got out of the second inning without giving up another run, but the Indians came back in the third inning and hung five runs up to put the game away.

"The rain didn't beat us, Turners beat us," Hoosac coach Mike Ameen said. "It's part of the experience. They have a lot more experience at this level and adjusted to it a little better than we did. We came out and gave up the one crooked number there. It was too much when you're facing a team and a pitcher like her."

Phillips, meanwhile, dominated the contest in the circle. The Turners senior faced the minimum 21 batters in the game, striking out 14 on just one hit. The one hit came through Alyssa Pause in the top of the fourth, but during the next at-bat, Pause was tagged out at first after a nifty pick-off attempt by Turners catcher Gabby Arzuaga.

All but the final of Phillips' 14 strikeouts came on swinging strike threes. Utilizing a riser pitch on a level Hoosac had not seen before, Phillips worked her magic to stunt every rally attempt.

"I mean, she had a really awesome rise," Hoosac senior Sienna Witherell said. "All of us were trying to lay off of it, but it was hard to lay off of it. I think that's what got us most of the time."

In Turners' decisive third inning, Hoosac pitcher Kali Puppolo struck out Hailey Whipple in the first at-bat, but then two walks put runners on and a wild pitch allowed Alyson Murphy around to make it 2-0.

Arzuaga was then hit by a pitch to get on, and Phillips drove in a pair of runs on a single to left field.

Three batters later, Jordyn Fiske made it 6-0 on a two-run single into left center. Pause ended the inning with a pick-off throw to third, but the damage had been done.

"Extremely happy," Turners Falls coach Gary Mullins said of the third inning barrage, "because I thought if we could score three or four runs that, I think, we can hold this team back, because they rely on bunting the ball a lot.

"I thought that they'd try their short game, and if we played our game we'd be OK. Those were big runs."

Turners tacked on its final run in the fifth on an RBI groundout by Wozniak to plate Phillips, who led off the inning with a triple.

Puppolo finished with three strikeouts on six hits with four walks and the one hit batter. Phillips went 2 for 3 at the plate in the win, and Wozniak finished 1 for 2 with two runs scored and the RBI.

The win ends Hoosac's season at 14-8. While the immediate aftermath had a terrible sting to it, both coach and player were quick to note that one loss couldn't damper what the Hurricanes accomplished in 2016.

"What I just told them was we are playing on June 10," Ameen said. "There are only six teams in Western Mass. that are playing, and we are one of them. We accomplished a lot of goals over the course of our season.

"I told them when they get over the disappointment of losing the game, which it's obviously disappointing, when they take a step back and look at it, they'll realize what they accomplished and how much success they had."

The game was the end of Witherell's career, along with fellow senior Jasmyne Forrest.

"It's sad that it's ending, but I'm happy," Witherell said. "I'm so proud of this team. I've been on it since I was a freshman. Every year we just progressed and progressed, and we just get better. There's really nothing to say except that I'm proud of this team, these girls, and all that we've done."

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Kali Puppolo and Alyssa Pause, Mackenzie Phillips and Gabby Arzuaga. W-Phillips, L-Puppolo. 3B – T 1 (Phillips).


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