Softball: Defending state champion Greenfield opens title defense with 23-0 win over Northampton

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 04-08-2024 8:44 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Not a bad way to start a bid for a three-peat.

Behind a 13 strikeouts from MacKenzie Paulin and a whopping 23 runs from the Greenfield offense, the Green Wave – winners of the last two MIAA Division 5 state championships – picked up right where they left off last season in their first game of 2024.

Greenfield hung 10 in the top of the third inning en route to a 23-0 shutout of Northampton on Monday evening. Paulin, who was one of the best pitchers in the area last spring, was in midseason form underneath the solar-eclipsed sun. To go along with the baker’s dozen strikeouts, Paulin tossed a no-hitter while surrendering just one base runner.

After catching a bunt from Blue Devils lead-off hitter Haly Doucette-Kaplan, Paulin fanned 10 consecutive batters. A fourth-inning walk from Jayda Alejandro – who was caught stealing on the next pitch – ended the streak, but she then struck out three more in a row in the fifth to end the game.

All told, Paulin was responsible for 14 of the 15 Northampton outs on Monday.

“Kenz was Kenz,” first-year Greenfield head coach Ray Dodge said. “She struck out 13, and that’s what she does. The defense behind her didn’t have to make many plays today.”

The Green Wave wasted no time getting on the board in the first inning. Anna Bucala and Ainslee Flynn drew walks, then Carly Blanchard ripped a single to load the bases up. Paulin drove in Bucala run with a ground ball to third, then Gloria McDonald ripped a double to bring Flynn home. Ivy Rae hit a double of her own, driving in Paulin and McDonald to round out Greenfield’s hot start.

Typically in a team’s first week of the season, the bats take a bit to get going. That wasn’t the case for the Green Wave.

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“They did a good job of not swinging at anything out of the strike zone,” Dodge said. “They stayed relatively disciplined and didn’t make it easy on the pitcher. For a first game, they played about as well as you can ask for.”

Four more runs in the second, 10 in the third and sixth in the fourth accumulated the 23 runs. Each of Greenfield’s nine starters recorded at least one hit and scored at least one run, and eight of those nine recorded one or more RBI.

In the circle for Northampton was Doucette-Kaplan, a freshman. Coming into this season, the Blue Devils had zero players on their roster with prior pitching experience. Junior Lily Pelis opened the season against West Springfield – a 14-8 loss – on March 29. Those two have bravely stepped up and offered to pitch for this young Northampton squad.

Doucette-Kaplan struggled at times, but in the fifth inning, she retired three straight batters to keep Greenfield off the board for the frame.

In their first season as Northampton head coach, Chase Every-Giroux has made it clear that the goal is to teach and build Pelis and Doucette-Kaplin as the year progresses.

“Over the last several years, this program hasn’t really built a pitcher,” Every-Giroux said. “I have two really brave pitchers taking the circle and doing the best they can. That’s part of it, but what I can say is that it’s a different culture. Their heads are always up and their attitudes are always great. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. It’s challenging at the varsity level to develop a pitcher, but not impossible.”

While it may be hard to take many positives away from a 23-run loss, Every-Giroux saw plenty throughout the five-inning game – especially in the last sequence of plays. Pelis snagged a ball at her shoe-strings out in centerfield followed by two ground outs, the last a smooth play at first by Caroline Riordan.

“I saw a lot of good things out there,” Every-Giroux said. “They were all jazzed up and giving each other props for those plays. The attitude is going to be a game changer.”

Northampton (0-2) is back in action on Tuesday, again playing host to a Franklin County powerhouse. The Blue Devils welcome Turners Falls, which lost to Greenfield in last year’s state final, at 5:30 p.m. It’s the second of a busy four-game week for Northampton.

“This was a warm-up for the rest of the week,” Every-Giroux said. “We have three more games this week, so it’s only up from here. They’re excited to get back on the diamond tomorrow.”

Dodge and the Green Wave are aware that bigger challenges await them this spring, but he was thrilled with the start to not only the season, but his stint with Greenfield as the head coach.

Greenfield (1-0) travels to Taconic at 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s a good game to get out of the way to get our feet wet and get going,” Dodge said. “We know we have some tough games coming, but it’s always nice to play well and get the win.”