Softball: Easthampton holds off South Hadley in Class B quarters, 8-4 (PHOTOS)

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  • Easthampton junior Abigail McClaflin, top, hugs sophomore Ana Growhowski after she scored in the fourth inning of the Eagles' 8-4 home win over South Hadley in their Class B quarterfinal at Wilby Field on Monday, May 23, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton sophomore Ana Growhowski, right, scores under the empty glove of South Hadley junior catcher Ruthie Pietrzykowski in the fourth inning of the Eagles’ 8-4 win over the visiting Tigers in their Class B quarterfinal at Wilby Field in Easthampton on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley freshman pitcher Ella Schaeffer delivers to an Easthampton batter in the second inning of the Tigers' 8-4 loss to host Eagles in their Class B quarterfinal at Wilby Field on Monday, May 23, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton sophomore pitcher Rosie Follet, right, meets with her infield in the third inning of the Eagles’ 8-4 home win over South Hadley in their Class B quarterfinal at Wilby Field on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton sophomore pitcher Rosie Follet delivers to a South Hadley batter in the second inning of the Eagles' 8-4 win over the visiting Tigers in their Class B quarterfinal at Wilby Field in Easthampton on Monday, May 23, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley junior Jae Velazquez doubles to bat in Erin Bullough and put the Tigers on the board in the first inning of their 8-4 loss to host Easthampton in their Class B quarterfinal at Wilby Field on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton sophomore catcher McKenzie McCarthy pulls in the throw too late to prevent South Hadley's Erin Bullough from scoring on a Jae Velazquez double in the first inning of the Eagles' 8-4 win over the visiting Tigers in their Class B quarterfinal at Wilby Field in Easthampton on Monday, May 23, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton's Jess Cloutier (4) welcomes fellow junior Abigail McLaflin home after she scored in the fifth inning of the Eagles' 8-4 win over South Hadley in their Class B quarterfinal at Wilby Field in Easthampton on Monday, May 23, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley senior Ange Bessone, with helmet, is welcomed to the dugout after scoring on a Jae Velazquez double in the fifth inning of the Tigers' 8-4 loss to host Easthampton in their Class B quarterfinal at Wilby Field on Monday, May 23, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley head coach Jess Nelson takes a timeout with her players in the fourth inning of the Tigers' 8-4 loss to host Easthampton in their Class B quarterfinal at Wilby Field on Monday, May 23, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton head coach Corey Robinson takes a timeout with his players in the fifth inning of the Eagles' 8-4 home win over South Hadley in their Class B quarterfinal at Wilby Field on Monday, May 23, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 5/23/2022 9:15:33 PM

EASTHAMPTON — After four and a half innings, the Western Mass. Class B softball quarterfinal between No. 3 Easthampton and No. 6 South Hadley was knotted up at 4 and appeared destined for a nail-biter of a finish.

South Hadley ace Ella Schaeffer was giving the Eagles trouble at the plate, and the Tigers stayed within striking distance. 

But over the course of two innings, South Hadley made a number of errors, and the home team capitalized on their mistakes. Easthampton scored once in the bottom of the fifth and three times in the bottom of the sixth to snatch control. South Hadley finished the game with nine errors total, and Easthampton walked away with an 8-4 win on Monday at Nonotuck Park, advancing to the semifinals against either No. 2 Wahconah or No. 7 Chicopee. Those teams will play in a quarterfinal on Tuesday.

“They are a good team. They earned every run that they got, but I also think that we helped them a lot. There are a lot of routine plays that we made mistakes on that we've not made mistakes on since our first practice,” South Hadley head coach Jess Nelson said. “So I think more than them winning, I think we beat ourselves.”

Prior to those mistakes, it was turning into quite the pitcher’s duel between South Hadley’s Schaeffer and Easthampton’s Rosie Follet. Both pitchers finished the game with 11 strikeouts, and, particularly toward the beginning of the game, Easthampton had a hard time connecting against Schaeffer.

“Their pitcher definitely (gave us trouble). A lot of us struck out. She's known for striking people out, but I think we did pretty good,” Easthampton’s Ana Growhowski said. “I think after we were up a little more, we found out that bunting worked well. I think after we got used to the speed, we were able to pick it up a little bit.” 

The Tigers got on the board first thanks to a massive double from Jae Velazquez that drove in Erin Bullough. They were able to keep the Eagles off the board entirely for the first two innings; both pitchers struck out three batters apiece in the second inning alone.

Easthampton head coach Corey Robinson attributed the Eagles’ slow start in part to their long layoff between games. Though the Eagles were riding a five-game winning streak into Monday’s quarterfinal, they hadn’t faced an opponent in five days.

“We come out here and we're a little tight. We really hadn't faced competition in a few days. [Schaeffer] has pretty good velocity, and she’s a good pitcher. So it took us a little bit to get adjusted,” Robinson said. I think a couple girls got off some long at bats that I think tired her a little bit. Once we got to see her a few times in a lineup, I think we started making some better contact… I told the girls, put the ball in play and good things will happen.”

In the bottom of the fifth, Lauren Morse got the Eagles started with a double, and her aggressive base-running led to the eventual game-winning run on a steal and an overthrow that allowed her to take two bases.

Easthampton went back to work in the sixth. After Schaeffer struck out the first batter, she walked the next and then the errors started to pile up for the Tigers. Christine Raymond, Haley Routhier, and Growhowski all plated for the Eagles to build their lead.

“It was a team effort. We made some good plays in the field, we were aggressive on a bases, which I knew we could be. There were some good at bats,” Robinson said. “You need a team-effort in games like this.”

For South Hadley (15-3), it was a disappointing loss though the Tigers are already looking ahead to the MIAA tournament. Nelson had just three seniors this year, and for her younger players, this was the first time they’d been on a stage that felt quite this big.

 “This is a very young team… this is their first experience in something like this,” she said. “Tournament-wise, I'm sure they've done something like this, but something where they've played with the same group of girls from the third week of March until today, where they've battled and been together the entire time… for the younger ones, I think the moment got to them a little bit, which happens. It's inexperience, it’s youth, it's all those things, but you would never know looking at them the way they played that they were as young as they are.”


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