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Division 3 softball: Granby can’t catch Turners in semifinal loss

AMHERST — The rest of Division 3 softball in western Massachusetts has been looking up at Turners Falls since the Indians dropped down from D-2 in 2006.

For the past four years, Granby has been good enough to run into the Indians each postseason, but never able to end their dominance.

Turners defeated the Rams 8-0 in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament semifinals Thursday at Sortino Field at the University of Massachusetts, marking the fourth straight time the Indians have ended Granby’s year.

“Every year we are coming at it thinking the pressure is on them, not on us,” senior pitcher Tessa Cote said. “They are the reigning champions. They have the weight on their shoulders to keep it. We’re sort of coming in looking to be the one to finally beat them. But it didn’t happen.”

The Rams have reached the semifinals five straight years and were two outs away from defeating Turners in last year’s title game before falling 7-6.

“It’s a big accomplishment for all of us to” reach the semifinals five straight years, senior catcher Noelle Menard said. “I’ve definitely looked forward to every softball year knowing this is what we get to, this is what we are working toward. All of my teammates work well together because we’ve been together for so long.”

The Indians will play No. 1 Mount Everett (21-1) in the title game back at UMass on Saturday at noon. Turners has won nine straight western Mass. titles overall and seven straight in D-3. They are also the two-time defending state champions.

“I’m thrilled with our accomplishments,” Granby coach Gary Casey said. “I wish we could have taken it a step further, but there is no shame in losing to the two-time defending state champions. I wish we had given them a better fight this time. We knew we could play with them after how close last year was.”

Casey said his team came in with the right mindset facing such a dominant foe.

“I think the experience that we had coming in here, I don’t think (the final score) had anything to do with being psyched out,” he said. “The girls have been here. They knew what to expect. They were comfortable. They’ve been in these games before. It’s just between the lines.”

The loss marked the final game for Granby seniors Alex White, Madison Place, Brooke Labrie, Brie Mercier, Melissa L’Heureux, Hannah Casey, Cote and Menard.

“We have been together since third grade or so,” said Cote, who struck out three and walked three. “We know each other so well, how to work well together, and what each other can do. It’s a big reason we’ve had the success we’ve had.”

Menard agreed.

“We tip our hats to them,” she said. “They work hard. They do a good job. They have a strong program every year. We do wish we could play a different team. We played (and beat) Mount Everett (in the semis) last year and that was a big accomplishment.”

On Thursday, Turners pounded out 13 hits and scored in five of its six innings en route to victory.

Dakota Smith-Porter, who will play at UMass next season, enjoyed her time at her future home in the circle and at the plate. The senior scattered three hits and walked one while striking out five in six innings of work. She also went 4-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.

Granby, meanwhile, had one single in each of the second, third and fifth innings and only had one runner reach second base all game.

Labrie blooped a single to shallow left in the second inning and took second on a groundout, but was stranded there. She was the lone Ram in scoring position on the day.

White (third inning) and Hannah Casey (fifth) had the other hits.

Turners “hit the crap out of the ball,” Casey said. “That’s what it comes down to. We had three hits. We hit the ball hard a couple of times, but we had some miscues and some bad luck.”

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

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