WORCESTER — Pitching and defense are often the ingredients to a championship, and while the Greater New Bedford softball team had plenty of both Saturday, it was the relentless offense that proved to be the difference as the Bears captured their first state championship with a resounding 8-3 win over perennial Western Mass. power Turners Falls at Worcester State.
“We did it with our bats today,” said Greater New Bedford coach Mark Collins. “They keep on amazing me.”
Despite playing in the state final for the first time, the moment didn’t seem to faze the Bears as they struck in the top of the first inning. Sophomore Rileigh Avila led off with a single through the hole on the left side. After a strikeout, senior Jennifer Pires singled to center, sending Avila to third. Pires advanced to second on the throw.
With the infield drawn in, junior Krystin Sylvia blooped a single just over the shortstop, allowing both runners to score for a quick 2-0 lead. Sylvia moved to second on the throw to the plate and scored on a single by sophomore Marissa Pires to take a 3-0 lead after one inning.
“We came off the bus swinging,” said Collins. “We knew we had to jump out and set the tone, and they did.”
Turners Falls (23-3) tried to answer back in the first, putting some pressure on Bears freshman starter Neely Eddleston . But she got her counterpart, Mackenzie Phillips, to ground out with runners at second and third to quell the rally.
“I definitely settled down after that, knowing my defense and my offense had my back,” said Eddleston.
After striking out the side in the second, Eddleston ran into some trouble in the third but got another ground out with runners in scoring position to retire the side and keep the Indians scoreless. Eddleston finished with 11 strikeouts, keeping the Indians off balance and showing a calm demeanor in the circle during the biggest moments.
“She’s incredible for a 14-year-old kid,” said Collins. “We were moving the ball in and out and did a good job of changing eye level on them.”
The Bears (22-9) added to their lead in the fifth inning, plating a pair of runs on RBI singles from Marissa Pires and Brooke Tetreault for a 5-0 lead.
After Eddleston worked out of another jam to close the fifth, the Bears put the game away in the sixth. They scored three more times, highlighted by doubles from Avila and Jennifer Pires as well as a two-run single by Katelynn Couto .
“It felt good to add those runs, it made me breathe a little easier,” said Collins.
Turners Falls was able to add three runs in the seventh but it wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of the Bears, who were prepared for a celebration.