McCann Tech softball team hangs on to beat Hopkins in Western Mass. D-III quarterfinals, book first semifinal trip in 30 years

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GILLIAN JONES — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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NORTH ADAMS — After the McCann Tech softball team held on for a 6-4 win over Hopkins Academy during Monday's Western Massachusetts Division III quarterfinal, normally loquacious Hornets coach Robin Finnegan was at a loss for the words.

The game was a roller coaster affair, and the victory is sending McCann to the Western Mass. semifinals for the first time in 30 years. When thinking of the rapid progression of this Hornets program — from missing the tournament altogether in 2015 and '16, to winning a first round game last season, to now earning a trip to UMass-Amherst as one of the final four teams in Division III — Finnegan needed a second to grasp how far they've come.

"I've only been at the school for about 12 years," Finnegan said. "Ever since I've been here we haven't gone to UMass. So I think it says a lot about the program and where its come from in the past. Just to get there for these guys, I'm just happy."

The Hornets and starter Meg Goyette looked dominant for five innings. Goyette allowed just three hits over five, helping the Hornets to a 3-0 lead when the Golden Eagles began their charge. An error and base hit put two runners in scoring position for Gabby Dijach. Dijach singled up the middle, scoring two, cutting Hopkins' deficit to one.

McCann Tech answered with three runs in the bottom half of the inning. Pinch-hitter Kalley Vanuni reached on a single into right. The Hopkins right fielder misplayed the ball and Vanuni showed impressive speed, going first-to-third on the error. Sarah Fortini followed, perfectly executing a safety squeeze, allowing Vanuni to score. Fortini advanced to second on a passed ball and came home on an error. Haley Miller plated Kiera Kupiec for the eventual winning run with a RBI single, putting the hosts up 6-2.

Miller led the offense, going 3 for 4 with a RBI and a run scored. Her heads-up base running stole a run in the fifth after a Hopkins error. Aubrey Tetlow went 2 for 4 with a RBI and a run scored. Fortini went 2 for 3 with two RBI and a runs scored.

Errors plagued the Hornets again in the seventh. An error on a single by pinch hitter Savanna Pierce allowed her to move to second. An error and a dropped third strike brought one run across. Meg Quinlan plated another on a ground out, moving the score to 6-4. With the tying run at the plate, Goyette reached back and struck the batter out swinging on a high fastball to end the game. Goyette ended with eight strikeouts, no walks and two earned runs on six hits. She left six runners stranded on base.

"I try not to let it bother me, because I know if it gets to me, nothing good will happen," Goyette said of the defensive miscues. "If I lose focus because of stuff I can't control, then it doesn't end too well for anyone. All the errors we had, they were based off of good hits. If they would've made the play, it would've been an amazing play."

The shaky play down the stretch could be contributed to general tiredness Finnegan said. Last season was the first time any of the McCann Tech players reached the postseason. Back in the postseason for the second year in a row, playing this late into the season can wear on young bodies.

Hopkins coach Paula Cristoforo said her players are also new to the Western Mass. stage. The Golden Eagles are heavy on underclassmen and plan to use this game as a learning lesson.

"We're a young team but we're a team that's willing to work hard," she said. "I think it says a lot about my girls and their ability to persevere and work hard, even when we are down. I think we did pretty good today. We didn't get all the hits that we wanted to get, that we usually get, but we're very youthful. ... We have a lot to look forward to."

McCann Tech advances to face No. 2 Mount Everett, Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Reaching the Western Mass. semis is a goal the Hornets set out to achieve at the beginning of the season. They're hoping they can get the nerves out and play their best at UMass.

"It's been a lot of our goals just to get there from the beginning," Goyette said. "So [playing at UMass] is definitely in our mind, but we don't let it take over, so we don't get nervous. We just play our hardest. Hopefully we can win and do better each inning."

———

Hopkins     000     002     2     —     4     6     4

McCann     010     023     x     —     6     10     6     

Maegan Quinlan and Sara Beauchamp. Meg Goyette and Aubrey Tetlow. WP — Goyette. LP — Quinlan. 2B — MT (Hailey Miller).

Akeem Glaspie can be reached at aglaspie@berkshireeagle.com, at @TheAkeemGlaspie on Twitter and 413-496-6252.


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