AMHERST –– Greater New Bedford sophomore Ava Neno was perched on second base, flexing her muscles.
Neno’s energy after punching a two-run double to score sisters Ava and Lena Tsonis percolated across the diamond, her hit scoring what would amount to the game-winning runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Neno finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs and two runs scored, powering No. 2 Greater New Bedford to a 8-5 win over No. 5 Middleborough to capture the Division 3 championship at Sortino Field. It was the Bears’ second championship in program history, and first under third-year coach Craig Soares.
“We knew at the beginning of the year that we had a chance,” said Soares, who received a water cooler shower post-game courtesy of senior shortstop Kylee Caetano. “We knew we had something here, but you can be as good as you want on paper. You’ve got to come out here and do the job.”
The Bears (25-2) raced out front with a five-run first inning. Caetano doubled home junior Hayleigh Silva, who led off with a walk, to nab a run just two batters into the game. Lena clubbed a long single off the right field wall, scoring Caetano. Neno then singled home Lena, and Hailey Soares and Neno would each come around to score before it was over.
The Sachems (21-5) closed the gap when junior Alex Welch destroyed a three-run homer that not only carried the fence, but sailed out of the stadium. She finished 3 for 4 with a double, the home run, 4 RBIs, and 2 runs scored.
When the Sachems loaded the bases in the fifth with one out, Bears senior pitcher Madison Medeiros collected a grounder up the middle and tossed it home to Lena, who uncorked a rocket to first for the inning-ending double play.
“At that moment, we knew that we had to do whatever it took to end that inning,” said Lena. “Once we ended that, we knew that we had all the momentum to finish this.”
The Bears followed the double-play with three more runs, cementing the victory.
“This is something that I’ve literally dreamed of since middle school,” said Neno. “This is a big reason why I came to [Greater New Bedford]. The dream of a high school softball player is to win a state title.”
Division 2 State
Westfield 3, Tewksbury 1 — After freshman Shea Hurley walked two of the first three batters of the game, junior captain and catcher Kenzie Raymond met her in the circle. From that point, Raymond called the pitches and Hurley settled in, not walking another batter and spinning an immaculate performance.
Hurley tossed a complete game, allowing one earned run, and Raymond anchored the offense, leading the No. 4 Bombers (21-2) past No. 2 Tewksbury at Sortino Field and capturing the first state championship in program history.
Hurley painted the outside corner with her cutter to keep hitters off balance. With a strong incorporation of pitches and pinpoint command, Hurley tossed only 25 balls on 95 pitches. She surrendered 5 hits, 2 walks and struck out 5.
“I have so much trust in her and I think that she trusts me as well,” Raymond said. “I just know what works for her and what doesn’t, and I think that’s why we do so well on defense.”
The Bombers scored in the first inning, Raymond blistering a double to left-center and scoring senior captain Carly James.
“It does help a lot,” Hurley said about getting an early lead. “I think that we’re better when we get our runs up first and keep them at bay.”
Sophomore Ali LaPanne reached first after a dropped third strike, advanced courtesy of back-to-back fielder’s choice plays, and scored on error to plate a second run in the second inning. Raymond kicked off the third with a double, advanced to third on an error, and was plated by a single by sophomore Moja Premny.
Bombers coach Tyson James coached his daughter, Carly, to a state championship in her final game.
“It was great to see her go out like this,” James said. “For the three [seniors] to get this on their last game together, it’s huge. It’s special, very special.”
Division 4 State
Amesbury 1, Case 0 — Amesbury senior Liv DeLong had seemingly done it all in her illustrious high school career, throwing perfect games and a litany of no-hitters.
Now, she can add state champion to the resume.
DeLong fired a three-hit, complete game shutout to lead No. 2 Amesbury over No. 4 Case in the championship game at Sortino Field. The victory marks the fifth state championship in program history and first since 2000.
DeLong, who will play at Boston University, struck out four and issued one walk by pitching to contact, trusting a rock-solid defense to make plays, and challenging hitters on the shadow of the zone.
“Liv had to hit a lot of rise ball spots today, a lot of curveballs worked well,” said junior catcher Ella DeLisle, who called the game. “Toward the end of the game, I started going down, drop balls, and it worked pretty well. She’s incredible, so anything that I call, she can do.”
The Levasseur sisters combined to create the lone run of the game. Olivia, a senior committed to the University of Southern Maine, found a hole with a single to lead off the fourth inning. After advancing to second on a fielder’s choice, Isabelle, a sophomore, clocked a single up the middle to plate Olivia in their final game as teammates.
“It’s like nothing else; it is fantastic, honestly,” Isabelle said, on winning a state title. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before.”
“[Olivia and Isabelle] have been playing the game since they were little kids,” Amesbury coach Jacquie Waters said. “This is their dream. I can’t say enough about them.”
Amesbury (24-1), which outscored opponents 292 to 10 this season, concluded its magical campaign with the first Division 4 title in MIAA history.
“It’s bittersweet, just because my best friends play on this team with me,” said DeLong, on throwing her final pitch for Amesbury. “It definitely feels good [to win the championship], we’ve worked so hard every single day.”
For the Cardinals (19-6), junior Hailey Berube strung together a solid outing, allowing one earned run on four hits and striking out three.
Cam Kerry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.