(Amesbury MA) First it was their bats.
Then it was their gloves.
But eventually it required a strikeout to get Turners Falls the 2021 Division Three state softball title.
Amesbury came out on the short end of a 5-4 score on Thursday afternoon, but they were tough to the finish.
The Indians (16-1) trailed 5-1 with two outs in the seventh inning but put three runs across. Amesbury, in fact, had the tying and winning runs on base when the final out was recorded.
“We didn’t give up,” said AHS coach Jacquie Waters afterwards, “and that makes me proud of them.”
Many from Amesbury turned out for the state finals and Turners Falls had plenty of folks make the two-hour trip from Western Massachusetts.
The concern pre-game was the weather, but it never rained.
The Thunder (18-0) came out hitting Amesbury starter Alana Delisle hard.
Alana had pitched in relief to get the win versus St. Mary’s (D3 North title game) and had gone the route against Case (D3 state semi-final).
But TF had six hits and three runs after 1 1/3 innings, so Coach Waters brought on Liv DeLong.
Liv retired eight straight batters to end the Thunder’s momentum.
Liv also put a run up for Amesbury in the bottom of the first inning with a shot over the rightfield fence.
This game stayed 3-1 until the seventh inning.
The Turners Falls bats gave them the lead. In innings three through six, their gloves preserved it.
“Oh, man!” exclaimed Turners coach Gary Mullins afterwards discussing the defense. “I didn’t know you could make those catches…….and we had three of them.”
All three of the Thunder outfielders (LF Liv Stafford, CF Emily Young, RF Holly Myers) had highlight catches.
Interestingly, the spectators were restricted to watching from along the outfield fence and therefore had the best view of the fine plays.
Amesbury’s Izzy Levasseur was victimized twice. In the third, her chance for a two-out, two-run double was thwarted by Liv Stafford’s running grab near the LF fence.
In the sixth, rightfielder Holly Myers robbed Izzy, leading off, of a possible double or triple.
Shortstop Hannah Marchefka had a defensive gem in the fourth inning. She charged an infield blooper and converted it into a double play.
If you had to choose one TF defensive memory, however, it was Emily Young’s home-run robbing catch in the fifth inning. Liv DeLong was the batter. She already had a home run and the strength to hit a ball out in any direction. Liv lofted a long fly to center. CF Emily Young raced back near the fence, caught the ball, and fell into the fence. There was a moment of, “Does she have still have the ball,” but Emily showed her glove and Liv’s long flyball was in it.
The Thunder defense collected outs in those innings where baserunners and runs would have been more likely. Remarkable performance!
Was it fatigue? Late-game pressure? Both teams struggled in the seventh inning.
Liv DeLong, who had thrown 4 2/3 innings of shutout relief, walked the leadoff batter and, with two outs, hit a batter.
That set up TF catcher Madi Liimatainen with the same two-on, two-out situation she faced in the first inning. On that occasion, the eighth-grader tripled. This time it was a double to left, and again two runs scored.
“Coach (Mullins) told us at the start of the seventh that we needed more runs,” said Madi afterwards. “Off the bat, I knew it was going to go pretty far. Might have gone out at home.”
A 3-1 lead seemed safe the way Turners Falls was defending. Now the lead was 5-1. Even safer? Not on this afternoon.
Amesbury had a hit, but also had two outs to start the seventh inning.
Turners needed just one more out……….but the next four Amesbury batters reached and three runs scored. The Indians were suddenly within one, 5-4, with runners on first and second.
But senior starter Jade Tyler saved the day for Turners with a game-ending strikeout.
“My heart was beating back there,” said TF catcher Madi Liimatainen recalling the final at-bat. “I knew Jade would come through in the clutch. She always does. I’m pretty sure the last pitch was a rise ball. After strike three, I couldn’t help but go jump into Jade’s arms.”
Coach Mullins joked afterwards: “The more pressure like this they put on me the quicker I’ll die!”
Olivia Whittier, Holly Myers, Madi Liimatainen, and Taryn Thayer each had two hits for Turners Falls.
Madi had four RBI and Olivia had one RBI.
Starter Jade Tyler yielded six hits and had six strikeouts.
Dominating performance by AHS junior Liv DeLong. Liv had a home run and a double that led to three RBI. She also scored twice. In long relief, the lefty struck out seven while giving up five hits.
Coach Gary Mullins numbers come at you like Tom Brady’s do. Gary has coached for forty-one years. In that time, his teams have won over seven hundred softball games. The Thunder have now won ten state softball titles. Last one was in 2017. They have won the West sectional twenty times including the last seven straight seasons.
You can tell by those numbers that Gary’s program doesn’t restart, it simply reloads. Think of the different teams & players that Tom Brady has made look good! The personnel may change but the ability to win continues.
This game was a unique matchup for me. Why? I lived in Turners Falls from grade one into my freshman year in high school. And now I live in Amesbury.
When I lived in Turners Falls, their sports teams were called, “Indians.” Pressure developed in recent years to change the mascot and that change was made to the “Thunder” in 2017.
Turners Falls graduates five starters including pitcher Jade Tyler. Don’t be surprised if they reload for another big run next year.
Amesbury graduates one starter (Julia Campbell) and has talent throughout their returnees. There are no certainties in life but it’s a safe assumption that the Indians will be contenders in next year’s Division 3 softball.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)