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Northampton softball team rolls to seventh straight win

  • Maya Kerstetter of Northampton connects for a single against South Hadley Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Maya Kerstetter of Northampton connects for a single against South Hadley Tuesday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley catcher Merry Kocot, right, eyes a throw as Shannon O'Leary of Northampton begins a slide to score on a hit from Mary Greco Monday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    South Hadley catcher Merry Kocot, right, eyes a throw as Shannon O'Leary of Northampton begins a slide to score on a hit from Mary Greco Monday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mary Greco of Northampton pitches to South Hadley Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Mary Greco of Northampton pitches to South Hadley Tuesday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Maddi Kelleher of South Hadley pitches to Northampton Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Maddi Kelleher of South Hadley pitches to Northampton Tuesday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Emma Findlay of Northampton catches a hit to send Jordan Pedolzky of South Hadley back to the dugout Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Emma Findlay of Northampton catches a hit to send Jordan Pedolzky of South Hadley back to the dugout Tuesday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Maya Kerstetter of Northampton, right, beats a throw to Cassandra McClaflin of South Hadley and steals second Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Maya Kerstetter of Northampton, right, beats a throw to Cassandra McClaflin of South Hadley and steals second Tuesday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kristin Gross of Northampton, left, pitches to her second baseman to force out Merry Kocot of South Hadley on a hit from Abby Lukasik Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Kristin Gross of Northampton, left, pitches to her second baseman to force out Merry Kocot of South Hadley on a hit from Abby Lukasik Tuesday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Emilie Baldwin of Northampton eyes the ball before connecting for a double Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Emilie Baldwin of Northampton eyes the ball before connecting for a double Tuesday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Vic Mielnikowski of South Hadley prepares to catch a hit from Nadine Harris of Northampton Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Vic Mielnikowski of South Hadley prepares to catch a hit from Nadine Harris of Northampton Tuesday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Maya Kerstetter of Northampton connects for a single against South Hadley Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • South Hadley catcher Merry Kocot, right, eyes a throw as Shannon O'Leary of Northampton begins a slide to score on a hit from Mary Greco Monday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Mary Greco of Northampton pitches to South Hadley Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Maddi Kelleher of South Hadley pitches to Northampton Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Emma Findlay of Northampton catches a hit to send Jordan Pedolzky of South Hadley back to the dugout Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Maya Kerstetter of Northampton, right, beats a throw to Cassandra McClaflin of South Hadley and steals second Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Kristin Gross of Northampton, left, pitches to her second baseman to force out Merry Kocot of South Hadley on a hit from Abby Lukasik Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Emilie Baldwin of Northampton eyes the ball before connecting for a double Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Vic Mielnikowski of South Hadley prepares to catch a hit from Nadine Harris of Northampton Tuesday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

NORTHAMPTON — Before the season began, coach Jim Hale took a look at his Northampton softball team’s schedule and tried to find enough wins for a postseason berth.

That seems like a long time ago now that the Blue Devils have won seven straight following Tuesday’s 12-4 win over South Hadley at home.

“You never know what you are going to have” entering a season, Hale said. “I was wondering where my 10 wins were going to come from (before the season). Now I’m wondering who is going to beat us. Really. We are just solid. They are playing well. They are playing smart.”

Northampton (7-1) continued its impressive offensive run Tuesday, pounding out 15 hits and scoring runs in each of the first five innings en route to the victory.

“We are just trying to make solid contact,” Emilie Baldwin said. “We aren’t trying to hit home runs. We want to get on base any way we can.

Baldwin, the team’s sophomore first baseman and No. 3 hitter, led the way with three hits, including two doubles, four RBIs and three runs scored. Rachel Sheehan (two RBIs, one run scored) and Mary Greco (two runs, one RBI) also went 3-for-4 each.

All nine batters reached base at least once and eight contributed at least one run scored or one driven in.

“Lots of different people are contributing,” Baldwin said. “It is so nice to know it’s not just 1 through 5 who are going to get hits. Nine could get three hits. It could come from anyone.”

The Blue Devils will put their winning streak on the line Thursday in the continuation of their April 10 game against defending Western Massachusetts Division 1 champion Agawam. That game ended due to darkness with the score tied at 3-3 after 13 innings. The game will resume at 4 p.m.

“They are going to start with the top of their order,” Hale said. “What we need is to get their first few hitters out, get through the top of the 14th and then see what we can do.”

Baldwin pointed to the team’s 21-10 win over Minnechaug on April 5 and its performance against the Brownies as the moments the Blue Devils began to believe they could put together a special season.

“After Minnechaug, that boosted our confidence a lot and then we went into Agawam thinking maybe we could be stay with them,” she said. “Then once we were through five innings tied, we were starting to believe that we could win this one.”

On Tuesday, South Hadley (2-3) put together a three-run fourth inning to cut its deficit to 6-4. Cassandra McClaflin (2-for-3, one run, one RBI) reached on an infield single and Merry Kocot walked before Abby Lukasik blasted an RBI double to deep center.

Freshman Lexi Gawron then lined a two-run single to right to make it a 6-4 Northampton lead.

“That hit was huge for (Gawron) especially,” South Hadley coach Jessica Nelson said. “She’s young. She’s not really used to this level of pitching. She was on JV for the first part of the season. That’s a huge gap, so for her to step up and get two RBIs like that was great to see.”

Northampton responded with six runs over the next two innings to put the game away.

“That (South Hadley rally) was a test. We haven’t had that for five or six games, to have someone come back like that and put our backs against the wall,” Hale said. “But we got a couple back, Mary settled down and we were back in control.”

Baldwin smacked a one-out double in the fourth and scored on single by Maya Kerstetter (2-for-4, two RBIs, twos run). Sheehan then drove in Kerstetter with a two-out single.

In the fifth, Kristin Gross drew a one-out walk and Greco, Baldwin and Kerstetter hit three consecutive doubles — Kerstetter’s was off the top of the wall in left-center to score three times. Sheehan then smacked another two-out RBI single to cap the scoring for the day.

“We’re just playing very good softball right now,” Hale said. “Defense is good. Mental mistakes are way down. And we’re hitting the ball. We have some timely hitting. Today we had three two-out hits that scored a run.”

Greco earned the win in the circle, allowing four runs on five hits and three walks while striking out four.

“I like that we can hit off girls like” Greco, Nelson said. “Yes, they are a D-1 and we won’t see them in the tournament, but we will see teams like this in the tournament.”

Maddi Kelleher took the loss for South Hadley. She walked two and struck out three for the Tigers, who continue their annual march through a brutal schedule. The D-2 squad plays a nearly entire D-1 schedule.

“That’s always been the schedule,” said Nelson, a former player who is in her fourth year with the team and second as head coach. “I know the schedule before it even comes out. Once we get into the second half of the schedule it is almost entirely league (games) with a few independent games. Once we get into our league, that’s when we want to take everything we’ve learned from the first half of the season and implement it into our play.

“I like it and I don’t like it. But the positive is we get to work all the kinks out before we get to” league play.

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

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