Softball: Cassie Dion records 200th career strikeout as Hopkins Academy blanks Granby 6-0

Hopkins Academy pitcher Cassie Dion (18) throws against Franklin Tech earlier this season in Hadley.

Hopkins Academy pitcher Cassie Dion (18) throws against Franklin Tech earlier this season in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE


Staff Writer

Published: 05-09-2024 8:19 PM

HADLEY — In the sixth inning of a 4-0 game, Hopkins Academy ace Cassie Dion was looking to get out of the frame unscathed with a Granby baserunner (Ellie Szlosek) on first base and one out.

Dion delivered a pitch to Rams clean-up hitter Katie Grabherr, who connected and sent a line drive right back at Dion. The ball struck her midsection, and Grabherr reached safely to put two on.

Dion walked it off and re-focused.

Golden Hawks catcher Lilly Ellia threw out Szlosek trying to steal third, then Dion struck out Grace Roy to end the inning with no damage. In the top of the seventh, Dion struck out the side after surrendering a single.

The shot to the midsection never fazed her, and her 14 strikeouts, zero walks and complete-game shutout helped Hopkins to a 6-0 win over Granby on Thursday afternoon.

Dion struck out the side in the first and second innings as well, with her first punchout standing as the 200th of the freshman’s career. Hopkins has a banner of pitchers with 400 strikeouts hanging in its gym, and she would be the first softball player in program history to have a spot on it should she reach that mark.

“She’s halfway to getting on the banner,” Golden Hawks head coach Lindsey Lord said. “She pitched really well today and we made good plays around her. I think we did very solid on defense.”

After a scoreless first inning, Hopkins got the first run of the afternoon via a Madelei Gallo RBI single, scoring Cassidi Mushenski. Gallo sent the ball high in the air, and it landed perfectly between a host of Rams fielders and down safely to bring home Mushenski. 

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The Golden Hawks added another in the third in similar fashion, with Ellia and Maggie Potter reaching base following softly-hit singles. Then Dion plated Ellia with an RBI single to make it 2-0.

There were several opportunities for the Rams to get off the field throughout Thursday’s contest, but they struggled to make the big play when they needed it.

“We know, and the girls know, those are ones that we gotta have,” Granby head coach Mike Afflitto said. “Those are the routine plays that need to be made, and I had us for three or four of them that gave them extra outs. And against a good team and a good arm, you can’t afford to give them extra base-runners and extra runs. You have to make those plays to be in games against the better teams.”

It wasn’t until the third and fourth innings that the Rams’ bats woke up. After fanning seven times its first time through the lineup, Granby started to put the bat on the ball against Dion. Kaitlyn Curran, Alexis Lapite, Roy, Grabherr and Quinn Cook all hit the ball very hard the second time through.

With Dion pounding the zone for Hopkins, it made the Rams’ job of anticipating pitches much easier – and they started to adjust. The only problem? They hit it right at the Golden Hawks’ defense.

“I loved seeing the adjustments, because earlier in the season we didn’t make those,” Afflitto said. “It was nice to see the two-strike approach change, and we talked about being more aggressive. [Dion] did a great job of pounding the strike zone, so that makes it easier for the hitter. You should be shortening up and trying to drive it. Hats off to [Hopkins], they made the plays today.”

Hopkins combined to score four runs over the fifth and sixth innings to break the game open, 6-0. With the way Dion was dealing, a 2-0 lead felt safe as is – but the insurance runs never hurt.

Isabella Bramucci ripped a two-run single to score Potter and Mushenski in the fifth, and Ellia and Dion each drove in Anna Conklin and Kiely Kinchla in the sixth.

“Those insurance runs are super important,” Lord said. “You want that insurance so that the kids play a little easier in the last inning, they don’t feel as much pressure. We have a younger team, so taking that pressure off whenever we can definitely helps.”

Cassie Flaherty singled to start the seventh for Granby, then Dion calmly stepped into the circle to shut down any threat with three consecutive strikeouts.

In the circle for Granby was Meredith Bartosz. The freshman tossed six strong innings, surrendering only one walk while striking out one. Bartosz pounded the strike zone and got Hopkins to hit it in favorable spots, and the Rams – aside from the aforementioned miscommunications – only made one error behind her.

“Meredith pitched great, and we played six good innings of defense when we didn’t have those mental miscues with the communication piece of it,” Afflitto said. “We want to pitch to contact, and she did a heck of a job. She’s young, but she’s been working hard in practice. It was nice to see her go out and give us a quality start today.”

Granby (8-5) travels to Holyoke for a weekend game with the Purple Knights. First pitch on Saturday is slated for 11 a.m.

Hopkins (8-5) also plays on Saturday, hosting Northampton at 1 p.m. in search of a third straight win.