Class D softball: Hopkins reaches 1st WMass final since 2005, falls to powerhouse Turners Falls

By HANNAH BEVIS

Staff Writer

Published: 06-08-2023 11:09 AM

WESTFIELD — For Turners Falls pitcher Madi Liimatainen, the Western Mass. Class D final on May 30 was everything she wanted and more. 

The sophomore struck out eight batters and allowed just two hits in an 8-1 victory over No. 2 Hopkins, returning the top-seeded Thunder to the winner’s circle after falling to Hoosac Valley in last year’s Class D final.

In last year’s defeat, Liimatainen was forced to watch as the Gary Stacey MVP Award was given to the opposing pitcher. This year, she was the unanimous choice for the award. 

“I was talking to my dad before the game and I was like, ‘you know, I really want the MVP.’ It's been something that I've always looked up to and look forward to,” Liimatainen said. “It's so surreal.” 

The two teams had met once before this year, early in the spring. In that matchup, Liimatainen wasn’t her usual dominant self and the young Thunder underestimated the Golden Hawks in a 17-3 loss. The second time around, they looked like a veteran team despite having just two seniors on their roster.

The Thunder got their bats going early and scored five of their eight runs in the first two innings, building an early lead they never relinquished. Liimatainen walked before Holly Myers drove her in with a monster triple in the opening inning. After setting down three consecutive batters to close out the second inning, the Thunder picked up right where they left off in the second.

With two outs on the board, the home team played like they had nothing to lose. Madisyn Dietz got on base via a dropped third strike, and Liimatainen reached second off a high pop-up that got lost in the sun. Myers picked up another RBI, driving Liimatainen home, and pinch runner Ivy Lopez eventually scampered home to make it 5-0 Turners Falls after two innings. 

“I think that getting runs right from the start and getting outs really helped because you have a little bit of cushion to go through the game,” Liimatainen said. “I think everybody all around thinks that if we get runs first, then you have the advantage already.”

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Hopkins Academy made some uncharacteristic mistakes in the team’s first Western Mass. final appearance since 2005. The Golden Hawks finished with six errors, struggling with visibility at times against the setting sun and letting nerves get the best of them on one of softball’s biggest stages. 

“We’re really excited to be here today. Regardless of the outcome, I still feel like it's a major accomplishment for this team,” Hopkins head coach Paula Cristoforo said. “Going forward, there's so much more to learn and so much more to do. We still have the state tournament in front of us so we just look forward to moving forward and playing our game.” 

Hannah Bevis can be reached at hbevis@gazettenet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1.]]>