AMHERST — Mount Everett junior Gwen Carpenter took it upon herself to send her softball team back the Western Massachusetts Division III championship game.
The speedy shortstop used her green light on the base paths to steal second and third base in the seventh inning of a tie ballgame. Carpenter's steal of third forced an errant throw by the McCann Tech catcher, allowing her to score the winning run in the Eagles' 3-2 victory over McCann Tech in the D-III semis on Wednesday.
The win advances Everett back to the Western Mass. final, setting up a rematch against defending champion Turners Falls.
"That was me," Carpenter said with a laugh when asked of her decision to steal third. "Usually with [coach] Kurt [DeGrenier] I know if the third baseman is up, I'm usually going to try and steal. We've always done that so I figured I'd take the chance. ... That's something we've worked on since I was playing for him in U10. So I might as well take a chance."
Carpenter's decision to swipe third with two outs was bold — and it almost back fired. Carpenter missed the base on her slide, began heading home, ran back to touch third before reaching the plate ahead of the throw.
"She's a big part of this team," DeGrenier said. "The whole year its been someone different each game. It's a different year for us. We've had our ups and downs, and it's been different people stepping up at different times when we needed them."
Maybe it was Carpenter's eagerness to erase the sour taste left in the team's mouth after its previous tournament games at Sortino Field that gave her the courage to steal third and head home.
Last season Carpenter watched from crutches, still recovering from a torn meniscus in her left knee as the Eagles lost big to Turners in the championship. Each of the prior two seasons, Carpenter recorded the final out in semifinal losses. This time, she found herself on base with the game hanging in the balance and took it upon herself to end the Eagles tough postseason luck.
Carpenter had reached base on an error in the seventh. McCann's miscue proved costly, and the Eagles exploited another mental gaffe in the second inning. Sarah Beckwith tied the game at 1-1 with a RBI double, scoring Hannah Race. Lauren Edwards followed and struck out. The ball was rolled back slowly to pitcher Meg Goyette after the out. Beckwith noticed the pitcher not in position to make a play and sprinted toward third. Goyette picked up the ball, but her haste forced an errant throw to third, allowing Beckwith to score. The Harvard-bound senior made a characteristically smart play. McCann Tech paid the price.
"That didn't lose us the game," McCann Tech coach Robin Finnegan said of Carpenter's play in the seventh. "We had a couple mental mistakes on the bases and in the second inning, apparently my players thought there were three outs and there weren't. That cost us a run and we lost by one. Our errors cost us this game."
Finnegan said that her players will learn from their mistakes on the big stage. With a majority of the team returning, the Hornets expect to return to UMass next season. She added that they'll still have a chance to take home a championship as they prepare for the upcoming State Vocational final.
The exciting game was well-pitched on both sides. Goyette allowed six hits while striking out three. Faith Angell allowed just five hits and struck out two.
Goyette's RBI single put McCann on the board first in the second. Aubrey Tetlow led the offense with two hits and two runs scored.
Saturday's final is the fourth straight postseason meeting between Everett and Turners.
DeGrenier said his team needs to bring an increased energy level to topple the juggernaut Thunder squad.
"Play fired up," he said. "Play fired up, act like you want to be here. Play fired up, put the ball in play and see what happens. You have to play seven innings to beat them. They're never going to give a game away."
McCann 010 001 0 — 2 5 3
Everett 020 000 1 — 3 6 2
Meg Goyette and Aubrey Tetlow. Faith Angell and Madison Ullrich. WP — Angell. LP — Goyette. 2B — ME (Sarah Beckwith).
Akeem Glaspie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @TheAkeemGlaspie on Twitter and 413-496-6252.