WESTHAMPTON, Mass. _ Nine days ago, Hampshire Regional was throughly embarrassed. The Red Raiders were beaten handily by Turners Fall High School 15-2 in Montague. For seven-year head coach Brian McGan, it marked the first time he had encountered a mercy-ruled defeat.
On Wednesday, the two softball powers met again. Only this time, it was Hampshire who had the last laugh. The old adage ‘what goes around comes around’ proved never more effective as the Red Raiders throttled the Indians 12-0 in a five-inning, mercy-ruled victory.
Still stinging from that defeat, the Red Raiders entered this contest with a purpose. They wasted little time exorcizing the demons of a week ago after scoring four runs in the first, and putting this one well out of reach with a six run third.
“We were ready to play and we brought it today,” said Hampshire pitcher Ashlee McGan, who scattered three hits, struck out five and also went 2-for-3 at the plate with three RBI. “That loss was in our heads so we definitely wanted to come back stronger against them today. We wanted this one really bad. I don’t think we were mentally set for that earlier game and that kind of put us in our place in preparation for this game.”
With the win, the Red Raiders improve to 13-1 and will no doubt use this latest triumph as a spring board towards another deep run into the postseason. Since 2010, Hampshire has reached the Division 2 Western Mass. finals four times and has moved on to the state semifinals twice.
For defending two-time Division 3 state champion Turners Falls (13-2), this loss is merely a hic-up. Despite the blowout, the Indians still have enough talent reach the state finals once again.
“They came to our place and we did the same to them,” 34-year Turners Falls coach Gary Mullins said. “Revenge can be a very powerful tool as it showed today. We have no excuses. That team just came out and flat out beat us. They have some very good hitters on that team who swing the bats well. I still think we are much-better than what we showed today. We’ll just have to see what happens from here.”
As Hampshire showed from the outset, what transpired in that first meeting would not be repeated. The Red Raiders showed tremendous patients at the plate against Indians’ hard-throwing righty Dakota Smith-Porter. The senior was having difficulty locating her spots, falling behind in the count frequently. When she was in a position having to groove a pitch, the Red Raiders sat back and jumped all over it.
Smith-Porter ran into trouble immediately. In the first inning, Hampshire loaded the bases before Marissa Sarna-McCarthy roped an opposite field two-run double to right field. After a wild pitch plated the Red Raiders’ third run, McGan followed with an RBI single to put Hampshire on top 4-0.
In the third, the Red Raiders blew the doors open. Junior Anna Dziok opened the frame by ripping an 0-2 fastball deep over the left field fence for a home run. Bri Weltlich followed with a doubled and took third on a wild pitch. Smith-Porter next walked McCarthy spelling the end of day inside the circle. Senior Tanisha Sanders was brought on in the hopes of getting the Indians out of the jam.
But Lilly West had other ideas. The freshman belted a two-run double to right. Hampshire would go ahead 8-0 moments later after eighth-grader Paige Sullivan grounded a single to left, plating West. The Red Raiders sent two more across the plate the frame on a passed ball and a Savannah Waters sacrifice fly. Hampshire went up by a dozen in the fourth following McGan’s two-run single. McGan, who will pitch for Keene State College next year, finished off Turners Falls in the top of the fifth to cap off this statement-making victory.
“I couldn’t be more prouder of the way our girls hit the ball today,” Brian McGan said. “They kept their heads down, swung the bats and didn’t swing at bad pitches. We knew Dakota [Smith-Porter] has a good rise ball and we try to emulate that during practice. We focus in trying to lay off of it and concentrate on the balls that are coming at our waists. I felt our girls had a little something to prove this time around against them. Today we managed to swing bats well and Ashlee pitched a great game and moved the ball well all-around the strike zone.”