Hampshire Regional softball takes tough loss at hands of Turners Falls
MONTAGUE — It won’t take long to learn whether the Hampshire Regional softball team’s lopsided loss Monday night was simply a speed bump en route to another deep postseason run.
The Raiders, who have reached four straight Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament championship games, were mercy-ruled for the first time under seventh-year coach Brian McGan, 15-2, under the lights at Turners Falls.
“It happens, everywhere you play,” said McGan, whose team is the defending WMass champion. “You are going to have games where nothing goes right. It happens in the big leagues all the way down. It’s only one game. Now we are going to see what everyone’s made of.”
Hampshire (9-1, 9-1 Franklin) is now tied in the loss column with the Indians (11-1, 11-1) atop the division standings. It has Tuesday off before squaring off against fourth-place Athol 7-5, 7-3) Wednesday and third-place Frontier Regional (9-3, 8-3) Thursday.
“We absolutely have to put this one behind us and move on,” senior center fielder Anna Dziok said. “This doesn’t show anything of who we are, so we are going to put it behind us for sure.”
On Monday night, Turners pounded out 13 hits and took advantage of five Hampshire errors in the victory.
“We just made too many errors in the field and our pitchers didn’t hit their spots, and that turns into a good old-fashioned blowout,” McGan said.
Ashlee McGan (eight hits, two walks, three strikeouts) returned after missing the last week due to a high ankle injury and lasted three innings. Sara Abel (four hits, three strikeouts, one walk) pitched the next 21∕3 innings and Alexis Ferris (one strikeout) faced four batters and got one out in the sixth.
Ashlee McGan “said she was good and maybe she was,” said Brian McGan, who is Ashlee’s father. “I can’t take anything away from (Turners). They are a great team. They hit the ball well. And we gave them extra outs. We haven’t had that many errors in a game since I’ve been here.”
Hampshire stranded runners on third in each of the first two innings and Turners took control with three runs in the second, including two off a two-run homer by UMass-bound senior Dakota Smith-Porter (2-for-3, two walks, two RBIs, two runs scored).
Turners then tacked on four more runs in the third and cruised to the victory.
“I think we had a lot of confidence that we were going to play well,” Dziok said. “I know we are really young, so that is going to affect things. We have to clean it up. We got messy. We frazzled, and it just kind of fell apart.
“I’m sure a lot of them were nervous. I know we have a lot of players who have been here before, but it’s hard to put that confidence in (the younger players) all the time. But I think we still had a great time. The experience is a lot of fun. It always is to play here.”
Waters had Hampshire’s first three hits of the day off Smith-Porter (five hits allowed, three walks, seven strikeouts). First, she led off the game with a single up the middle, stole second and took third on a groundout before being stranded.
She then led off the third with a double down the left-field line, but was doubled up tagging on a pop out. In the fifth, she smacked a double to right.
The Raiders finally got on the board in the sixth when Dziok smacked a leadoff home run — her fourth of the year — to left field.
Dziok “hit the ball well,” McGan said. “She’s been working hard in practice all week. She’s been struggling a little bit the last couple of games, but I had a feeling she was going to get a hold of one in one of these games.”
Bri Weltlich then walked and took second on a groundout. Lilly West then reached on an infield single, moving Weltlich to third.
Pinch-hitter Taylor Boutwell then scored Weltlich on a grounder to second.
Turners plays at Hampshire on May 15.
“We are going to get stronger from this,” Waters said. “This is the first time a lot of the younger kids have seen a pitcher this good. Next week, when we play them again, I think it will be a different story.”
Jim Pignatiello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.