Hannah Gilbert, Franklin Tech blank Taconic 6-0 in MIAA Div. 5 Round of 16 (PHOTOS)

By JEFF LAJOIE

Staff Writer

Published: 06-07-2023 9:34 PM

PITTSFIELD – Hannah Gilbert and the Franklin Tech softball team did everything right in order to snag a road postseason victory on Wednesday.

The 11th-seeded Eagles played well defensively and generated enough offense with some timely hitting. Add in a lockdown performance in the circle from Gilbert, and it all added up to an impressive 6-0 victory over No. 6 Taconic in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16.

The sophomore pitcher struck out 12 batters and smacked a two-run home run over the left field fence in the seventh inning to help seal the deal.

“She did anything we could’ve asked out of her,” Franklin Tech coach Joe Gamache said of Gilbert.

The Eagles advanced to the Div. 5 quarterfinal round and a meeting with crosstown foe No. 3 Turners Falls. That contest will be played Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Gary Mullins Field.

While Gilbert held the host Thunder off the board entirely, she was quick to credit the defense behind her. The Eagles turned two double plays, and limited Taconic’s chances over the course of the afternoon.

“It was really good defense,” offered Gilbert. “When they made contact, every play was pretty much made. And that was the same last game, too, so they’re really doing a good job behind me.”

Gamache agreed with his ace.

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“We always preach three keys to success are solid pitching, great defense and timely hitting… and we got all aspects today,” he said. “Hannah pitched great in the circle, we turned two double plays… girls stayed dialed in. We capitalized on a couple of their mistakes early on and toward the end of the game we were able to punch some hits through and score a few more.”

The Eagles took advantage of a Taconic error to score the game’s first run in the top of the second inning. Kendra Campbell doubled and moved to third base on a ground out. With two outs, Kyra Goodell lifted a fly ball to right field that was dropped, enabling Campbell to touch home for a 1-0 lead.

Two more errors in the top of the third led to another Franklin Tech run. With one out, Lilly Ross’ shot to right field was also mishandled, enabling her to move all the way to third base on the play. Gilbert followed with an RBI single up the middle to make it a 2-0 game, and Gilbert wound up on third base after an error from the center fielder on the play. Taconic pitcher Rylee Paronto got back-to-back strikeouts to escape further damage, however.

“We’ve been on the other side of that,” began Gamache. “We’ve had a couple losses this year where we’ve made mistakes and other teams have capitalized on it so we always preach that we’ve got to take advantage in those situations because it’s a 6 [versus] 11 game, in theory it’s going to be a tight game. You never know if one or two mistakes can determine the outcome.”

Ross came through again in the top of the fifth, as her RBI single plated Kaitlin Trudeau (walk) for a 3-0 advantage.

While Gilbert was shutting down the Thunder in the circle, the Eagles’ bats weren’t satisfied with a three-run cushion. Trudeau led off the top of the seventh inning with a triple off the center field fence, the 100th hit of her varsity softball career, and scored on another Ross RBI single to make it 4-0.

That set the stage for Gilbert, who unloaded a mammoth home run over the left field fence that brought the entire Franklin Tech team out of the dugout to greet her at home plate with a 6-0 lead.

“It felt good,” said Gilbert of the home run. “Just running to the plate, everybody was there screaming and it felt good.”

Gamache said he was happy to see his team push three across in the seventh to really put things out of reach.

“We had a goal that we were going to try and bat through the order to extend it [in the seventh],” he said. “We didn’t quite get there but to tack on those three runs there was huge.”

Gilbert set Taconic down in order in the bottom of the seventh, getting a ground ball to Goodell at third base to secure the victory and a spot in the quarterfinals.

It’s the second quarterfinal appearance in a row for Franklin Tech, which lost in the Round of 8 in 2022 to Frontier.

“They’re a pretty young group. They have a lot of fun. There’s pretty good team chemistry here,” said Gamache. “They really don’t get rattled by the team that’s in front of them. They’re just going to play their game and hopefully that’s good enough to win.”

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