WORCESTER, Mass. -- This time it was the newbie giving the prodigy a lesson in Softball 101.
Greater New Bedford Regional Voke reached its first Division 3 state final the hard way and the characteristics it gained from those experiences propelled the Bears to a 8-3 triumph over Turners Falls Saturday at Rockwood Field and a state championship to boot.
The Bears (22-9), a 15th seed in the South region, ran roughshod through the sectional tournament and state semifinal to get here. Although GNB was going up against a legendary coach and a team with a exclusive legacy, none of it seemed to matter.
The Bears got off the bus loose and relax and played that way throughout. Scoring three times in the opening frame, GNB set the tone early, never looking back. In that inning, the Bears placed two runners aboard against Indians pitcher Mackenzie Phillips before Krystin Sylvia (3 hits) brought both in with a line single. Sylvia's time on the base paths was brief after Marissa Pires stroked a single to center to make it 3-0. A pair of Turners Falls errors in the frame certainly didn't assist the cause.
"Our team really came together," said Sylvia, a junior. "Everyone pushed each other to do better all season. Winning our first playoff game over Bourne really set the tone for us and we all believed we could take it all the way to the state finals. We came into this like it is just another regular game for us."
Turners Falls (23-3) didn't know what hit them. The Indians plain and simple had no clue in how to solve GNB freshman pitcher Neely Eddleston. The righty curtailed Turners Falls' offense for most of the afternoon, holding them to nine hits and kept them off the scoreboard over the first six innings. She also fanned 11.
Phillips was not sharp, surrendering 16 hits. She left pitches over the plate and her curve wasn't biting. In the Bears' fifth, they put this game out of reach, scoring a pair on RBI from Pires and Brooke Tetreault to go up 5-0.
The frustration level increased for Turners Falls in the bottom of the frame. The Indians put two runners on but failed to score. In a nutshell, that was the way the afternoon went for them.
"I thought (GNB) really handled themselves well at the plate today," said Indians hall-of-fame head coach Gary Mullins. "I think they have seen many kids like Mackenzie over the season. Mackenzie didn't surprise any of them. We got some breaks to get to this game but today we didn't get any. That was a very good team we faced."
In the top of the sixth, the Bears offense continued to flex their muscle with Phillps continuing to find the terrain rough going. A single by Mollie Mayer and a double from Rileigh Avila (3 hits) set up Katelynn Couto's bloop single that plated both. Jen Pires followed by lashing a double to bring in GNB's eighth run.
"We knew [Phillips] likes to throw the fastball so we came out and attacked it and we saw a flaw with her curve in which she was showing it before the pitch," Bears head coach Mark Collins said. "We play in a very tough division [South Coast Conference] which seasons us up pretty good for games like this. I've got to thank my conference for getting us ready for this. It's never an easy day at the office in that conference."
After enduring six innings of silence at the plate, the Indians offense finally got to Eddleston some in the seventh. Morgan Ozdarski, Jenna Putala and Gabrielle Arzuaga took some of the sting out of the day driving in Turners Falls runs, but it wasn’t enough as Eddleston got out of further trouble to earn the victory.
"At the beginning of the game I was a little nervous but getting those three runs in the first inning was certainly a relief," Eddleston said. "After we got those runs I calmed down a lot. We felt once the postseason started that we could get here and now winning it is very exciting. I'm very happy for our seniors who now leave with a championship."
Turners Falls was looking to claim its seventh state title. They are now 6-6 in championship contests and remain tied with Apponequet Regional for the second most state championship wins all time. Bishop Fenwick leads with eight.