Softball preview 2024: Greenfield seeks third-straight Div. 5 state championship

Greenfield celebrates beating Turners Falls in the MIAA Div.  5 state championship game at Sortino Field at the University of Massachusetts last year.

Greenfield celebrates beating Turners Falls in the MIAA Div. 5 state championship game at Sortino Field at the University of Massachusetts last year. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL Franz

Turners Falls’€™ Madison Liimatainen smacks a home run to left field against Greenfield in the MIAA Div. 5 state championship game at Sortino Field at the University of Massachusetts last year.

Turners Falls’€™ Madison Liimatainen smacks a home run to left field against Greenfield in the MIAA Div. 5 state championship game at Sortino Field at the University of Massachusetts last year. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL Franz

Franklin Tech’s Hannah Gilbert smacks a home run  against Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School at Nancy Gifford Field in Montague last year.

Franklin Tech’s Hannah Gilbert smacks a home run against Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School at Nancy Gifford Field in Montague last year. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL Franz

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 04-04-2024 3:41 PM

It would be hard to find a more dominant postseason run than the one the Greenfield softball team had a season ago. 

After winning the 2022 MIAA Division 5 state championship, the Green Wave came back last spring with a loaded squad and dominated their way to a Western Mass. Class C championship, outscoring their three opponents 38-3 along the way and beating Mt. Greylock, 16-3, to win a sectional title. 

The dominance continued at the state level. Greenfield beat Holbrook (12-0), Georgetown (13-1), Drury (8-1) and Tahanto (8-2) to earn a spot in the state title game. Waiting for them? Franklin County power and rival Turners Falls. 

The highly-anticipated title game between the two rivals saw the Green Wave put eight runs on the board in the third inning to pull away with a 10-2 victory and capture their second straight D5 title. Greenfield outscored its opponents 51-6 during its championship run. 

The scary part? The Green Wave bring back five starters and two players who platooned in the lineup from that championship team, losing just three seniors in Rachel Dodge, Brielle Widelo and Abi Ortiz. Ray Dodge takes over for John Hickey — who coached Greenfield to its two state championships and won the 2021-22 MIAA Coach of the Year Award — but was left with plenty of talent to work with as the Green Wave aim to bring a third straight state title back to Greenfield. 

“You have everybody saying we’re going for three in a row,” Dodge said. “That’s not easy. They’re all smart kids and they play all the time but it’s not going to be handed to us. You can run into a hot pitcher or have one bad day. Those are the expectations, though. They’re looking pretty good and are working hard to do it.” 

MacKenzie Paulin led Greenfield on its two title runs in the circle — being named MVP of both championship games — and is line for a monster junior season both pitching and at the plate. Paulin already eclipsed the 500 strikeout mark as a sophomore, while also bringing a strong bat in the middle of the Green Wave lineup. 

Ainslee Flynn returns behind the plate while Anna Bucala (3B) and Carly Blanchard (SS) once again provide stability on the left side of the infield. Bucala, Flynn, Blanchard and Paulin hit 1-through-4 in the Green Wave lineup a season ago. 

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Ellis Benitez will again start in right field and is another option in the circle, Ivy Rae will play full time at second base while Gloria McDonald is another returner who Dodge has high hopes for. 

Mackensie Goncalves brings versatility in both the infield and outfield while Grace Laurie, Sophia Rotkiewicz, Bianca Reynolds and Meghan Collins are young players who will see time as well. Greenfield will be without senior Amber Bergeron, who tore her ACL during the basketball season. 

“We’re bringing back a good number of players from last year,” Dodge said. “We have a couple new kids filling in and a few kids getting used to new positions.” 

Who are the Green Wave’s biggest challengers to winning a third-straight state title? It just may be a pair of teams who reside one town over. 

Coach Gary Mullins and the Turners Falls softball team have been the traditional power in the area, with 10 state championships to their name. The Thunder’s last title came in 2021, while Turners made it to the Div. 5 semis in 2022 and, as mentioned, reached the championship game last June where it fell to Greenfield. 

While the Green Wave won the state title, it was Turners that won the Franklin County League West crown, a league that featured Greenfield, Wahconah (D4 Round of 16), Mount Greylock (D5 quarterfinals), Taconic (D5 Round of 16) and Frontier (D5 Round of 16). 

With junior Madi Liimatainen back — who eclipsed the 100 hit mark and 500 strikeout mark during her sophomore season — as well veterans like senior Holly Myers and a plethora of young players who gained valuable experience a season ago, the Thunder will be right where they usually are, competing for a state title. 

“We have some kids who can play,” Mullins said. “I’m excited about this group. We’re going to be moving people around and hopefully take a step forward. We have more options and flexibility. Some of the younger players are showing they can field and catch which really gives us more flexibility with the lineup.” 

Franklin Tech fell to Turners by one run in the D5 quarterfinals and returns a plethora of stars from that squad. The Eagles also won the state vocational title and finished as co-champs of the Franklin County League East alongside Hopkins in 2023. 

Hannah Gilbert, another area junior who has dominated in the circle, has 278 career strikeouts and will be the Eagles’ ace this fall. Senior Kaitlin Trudeau has eclipsed the 100 career hit mark while senior Lilly Ross, Gilbert and Kylee Gamache are all nearing 100 career hits, with Franklin Tech returning a roster that will certainly be in the mix to bring hardware back to Turners. 

“We’re hoping to win a fourth consecutive league title, third consecutive state vocational championship and make deep runs in the Western Mass. and state tournaments,” Tech coach Joe Gamache said.

Here’s a deeper dive on how each team stacks up: 

Athol

COACH: Jerry Duguay

LEAGUE/DIVISION: FCL East/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 5-14

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: Missed state tournament

ROSTER: Jenna Bonenfant, Abby Lutz, Chevelle Stockwood, Allison Robertson, Tapanga Chapalonis, Jaylynn Chapalonis, Kahlen Gregory, Madilyn Hermes, Evelyn Robinson, Gracie Litchenberger, Giana Vaillancourt, Hailey Cummings

OUTLOOK: Bonenfant, a captain, is a top bat who is in line for a big senior year. She’ll play third and see time behind the plate in the field. Lutz and Stockwood round out the senior class for the Bears.

Chapalonis was Athol’s top arm last year as a freshman and will again be in the circle her sophomore year, Hermes is a sophomore who will play a key role behind the plate and in the outfield and Vaillancourt is a freshman who will be a big contributor.

Robertson is a captain as a junior.

FC Tech

COACH: Joe Gamache

LEAGUE/DIVISION: FCL East/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 21-4

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: D5 quarterfinals

ROSTER: Kyra Goodell, Lilly Ross, Kaitlin Trudeau, Gianna DiSciullo, Kylee Gamache, Hannah Gilbert, Kristine Given, Cordelia Guerin, Lilianna Inman, Katy Lengieza, Shelby O’Leary, Samantha Duncan, Alison George, Skylei Lapan, Lyla Mickiewicz, Jenna Petrowicz, Lindsey Taylor, Brayleigh Burgh, Sandra Johnson, Emma Petersen, Taylor Underwood

OUTLOOK: After graduating just two seniors, the Eagles bring back nearly their entire roster from a season ago.

Gilbert (.534), Gamache (.455), Ross (.319), Guerin (.350) and Trudeau (.452) all batted over .300 while taking over 60 at bats a season ago. Gilbert hit 12 home runs, Ross knocked in 25 runs while Gamache cracked six doubles and brought in 24 runs and Trudeau swiped 26 bases.

In the circle, Gilbert went 16-4, striking out 222 batters while recording seven shutouts and four no-hitters while Ross tallied 50 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched.

Trudeau, Ross and Goodell provide senior leadership for Tech.

Frontier

COACH: Gary Deane

LEAGUE/DIVISION: FCL West/4

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 7-15

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: D5 Round of 16

ROSTER: Gabrielle Adams, Hailey Hutkoski, Delaney Fifield, Olivia Machon, Sohia Pinardi, Rozalyn Schempp, Ashley Taylor, Whitney Campbell, Skyler Steele, Adelaide Ehle, Abigail Schreiber, Adelyn Wood, Raine Wonsey

OUTLOOK: The Redhawks have been a young team the last two seasons, reaching the Div. 5 final four in 2021 while making it to the Round of 16 last spring.

Frontier brings back its entire roster and added Wonsey, a seventh grader, who has started in the circle in the Redhawks’ opening two games this season.

Adams and Hutkoski are senior leaders who return to the starting lineup while Deane is expecting big things from his five juniors — Fifield, Machon, Pinardi, Schempp and Taylor — this spring.

Steele, a freshman who has been starting since she was in seventh grade, and Fifield are approaching 100 career hits, hoping to power the Frontier lineup in a tough FCL West.

Greenfield

COACH: Ray Dodge

LEAGUE/DIVISION: FCL West/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 21-5

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: Won D5 championship

ROSTER: Ainslee Flynn, Carly Blanchard, Ellis Benitez, MacKenzie Paulin, Anna Bucala, Mackensie Goncalves, Ivy Rae, Gloria McDonald, Sophia Rotkiewicz, Meghan Collins, Bianca Reynolds, Grace Laurie

Mahar

COACH: Jim Cleveland

LEAGUE/DIVISION: FCL East/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 0-17

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: Missed state tournament

ROSTER: Dakota Cleveland, Alivia Patch, Laura McGinnis, Kailyn Hebert, Carly Beaton, Gabby Matthews, Autumn Knechtel, MacKenzie Matthews, Katie McGinnis, McKenzie Scribner, Avery Savage, Lexi Ares, Ava DeJackome, Trinity Bergeron, Erin Parse

OUTLOOK: It’s been a struggle of late for the Sens, as Mahar hasn’t won a game since the 2019 season though it hopes to change that this spring.

Dakota Cleveland led the Sens in hits last year, McGinnis and Matthews received valuable experience in the circle last spring while Savage is a talented eighth grader who should play a big role.

“This group of seniors hasn’t won a game in four years,” Jim Cleveland said. “They are putting in the work and pushing this team to better days. We are a young team but the talent is growing. We need to pitch better.”

Mohawk Trail

COACH: Sherri Lannon

LEAGUE/DIVISION: FCL East/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 11-11

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: D5 Round of 32

ROSTER: Riley Giard, Sophia Goodnow, Maddie Costentino, Kaylin Sumner, Shelby Collier, Rachel Pease, Adrian Grant, Addie Loomis, Abby Moffatt, Abi Dobias, Sarah Beckwith, Emmalee Inman, Bella Brown

OUTLOOK: The Warriors are looking to take another step forward in Lannon’s fourth year coaching the team after reaching the state tournament last spring.

Mohawk Trail is a veteran group with six seniors, led by Giard in the circle, Pease, Sumner and Collier in the outfield, Cosentino behind the plate and Goodnow at first.

Loomis provides a big bat while Moffatt, an eighth grader, is a player to watch at third.

Pioneer

COACH: Marty Mulvihill

LEAGUE/DIVISION: FCL East/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 6-11

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: Missed state tournament

ROSTER: Laylah Goulston, Allison Clary, Jacobia Tyminski, Kelly Baird, Avery Johnson, Giulia Moore, Kaelynn Chabot, Abbie Ray, Kiara Gruzskowski, Kaylee Fernette, Roslynn Moore, Maggie Tsipenyuk, Jaelyn Boliski, Taylor Chase, Natalie Johnson, Gretta Lewis, Erin Killay

OUTLOOK: Baird is a strong bat for the Panthers, already recording two home runs in Pioneer’s opening two games.

Tyminski is the Panthers’ top arm while also providing at the plate while Boliski and Baird are other arms Mulvihill can turn to.

Goulston, Clary and Johnson are veterans who will play key roles.

Turners Falls

COACH: Gary Mullins

LEAGUE/DIVISION: FCL West/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 18-8

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: D5 finals

ROSTER: Holly Meyers, Ella Kolodziej, Anne Kolodziej, Madison Liimatainen, Mia Marigliano, Marilyn Abarua, Madison Dietz, Janelle Massey, Addison Talbot, Ivy Lopez, Maddie Haight, Candance Fisher, Kendra Steiner, Ameliya Galbraith, Shelby Beck, Autumn Thornton, McKenzie Stafford

OUTLOOK: Liimatainen and Myers are the Thunder’s leaders this spring.

Marigliano, Abarua, Dietz, Massey, Talbot, Lopez all played roles last year. Marigliano and Abarua will start in the outfield, Dietz will provide ability at second and short while Talbot looks to make the move from right field to the infield this year.

Massey was a big bat and started at shortstop as a freshman last year while Lopez will play in the outfield as a freshman this year.

The Kolodziej twins, Ella and Anne, are playing for the first time as seniors, with Mullins saying they’re getting better by the practice. They join Myers as Turners’ three seniors.

Thornton, a seventh grader, is a player to keep an eye on, as she will see time in the outfield while projecting in the circle in the future.