Bay State Games: West softball team posts perfect day, secures spot in gold medal game (PHOTOS)

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 07-12-2023 6:12 PM

DEVENS – The West needed to sweat out its perfect Bay State Games softball record in more ways than one.

Temperatures hovered in the mid to high 80s and low 90s at Willard Field all day Wednesday, and Central pitcher Hannah Reardon turned up the heat from the circle. The Nashoba rising senior didn’t allow a baserunner for the first 2 2/3 innings and surrendered just six hits. 

West base runners advanced past first base just twice, but that was enough in a 1-0 victory.

With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Westfield Tech’s Allyssa Slack laid down a bunt single then stole second. Morgan Peabody of West Springfield then sent a single to the outfield, and Slack beat the throw home from center field and dodged the tag for the game’s only run.

Turners Falls’ Madison Liimatainen also singled in the bottom of the sixth but was thrown out at home trying to stretch a single into an insurance run. Fortunately West pitcher Mackenzie Blair of Minnechaug was up to the task. She pitched a shutout with six strikeouts. Central managed just five hits, and Blair threw three 1-2-3 innings.

Hampshire’s Ryanne Dubay notched the West’s first hit with a two-out single in the bottom of the third.

Central regularly attempted bunts and steals, using small ball to test the West’s coordination and communication. Though the team has only been together a few days, they calmed the chaos.

“We know we have coverage, and we know who’s covering us,” Easthampton’s Sophia Faginski said. “We never really have to worry that much. We have each other’s backs.” 

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The victory capped a second consecutive 2-0 day to push the West to the top of the standings at 4-0 along with the Southeast. Southeast currently holds the No. 1 seed because of tiebreakers, but the two teams will meet for the first time in pool play at 11 a.m. Thursday back in Devens. The winner will be the home team for the gold medal game rematch at 1:15 p.m.

“We can’t wait to come back tomorrow and come even harder,” Faginski said.

In the first game against Metro during a 10-1 victory, Liimatainen a ball to deep center field in the top of the second inning. She watched it fly toward the center fielder and slowed her jog.

The ball bounced off the center fielder’s glove and over the outfield fence for a two-run homer.

“I’ve never seen it happen before,” Liimatainen said. “I wasn’t sure how far it went. I knew I hit it good. I thought she caught it, but everybody said run and I didn’t know why. I looked out there and saw the ball was dropped, I didn’t realize it went over the fence.”

Her West teammates wondered aloud in the dugout whether they should greet her at home plate before pouring out to welcome her home. 

Liimatainen’s Franklin County foe but Bay State teammate Hannah Gilbert struck out eight in a six-inning complete game. She allowed just one hit in the bottom of the third inning, and it was a close play at first.

“We’re very good together based off of not being able to play together through school,” Liimatainen said. “With the amount of practice we’ve had, we’ve gelled together.”

The first five West batters of the game reached. After an error, Peabody doubled, missing a home run by feet that dropped in front of a fence blown backward by wind. Westfield’s Kelsey Bouchard brought two runs home with a double, and Slack made it 3-0 with an RBI single.

A fielder’s choice brought in a fourth run in the second, setting up Liimatainen’s homer.

In the third, Gilbert hit an RBI double, Hampshire Regional’s CC Thayer hit an RBI double, and Frontier rising freshman Skyler Steele brought her home with a ground out to extend the lead to 9-0. 

Peabody tacked on the the 10th run with an RBI single in the top of the sixth. The game’s timer sounded in the sixth inning, which prevented the game from going to a seventh despite Metro’s run to cut the deficit to nine.

“It’s cool to see the group of people because we’re all that talented, and that what makes it all fun,” Liimatainen said. “We know it’s not going to be an easy game. Everything has to be good no matter who or where you’re playing.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>