Div. 5 softball: Tahanto stuns two-time defending state champion Greenfield in state quarterfinal (PHOTOS)

Tahanto players celebrate after making the final out to secure a 5-2 victory over top-seeded Greenfield in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal round on Friday at Vets Field.

Tahanto players celebrate after making the final out to secure a 5-2 victory over top-seeded Greenfield in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal round on Friday at Vets Field. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Greenfield softball players jog off the field in between innings during the team’s 5-2 loss to Tahanto in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal round on Friday at Vets Field.

Greenfield softball players jog off the field in between innings during the team’s 5-2 loss to Tahanto in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal round on Friday at Vets Field. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Greenfield’s Anna Bucala scoots into third base safely against Tahanto in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal on Friday at Vets Field.

Greenfield’s Anna Bucala scoots into third base safely against Tahanto in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal on Friday at Vets Field. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Greenfield’s MacKenzie Paulin delivers a pitch against Tahanto during the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal on Friday at Vets Field in Greenfield.

Greenfield’s MacKenzie Paulin delivers a pitch against Tahanto during the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal on Friday at Vets Field in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Greenfield’s MacKenzie Paulin, left, and Anna Bucala celebrate after scoring runs to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning during the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal against Tahanto on Friday at Vets Field in Greenfield.

Greenfield’s MacKenzie Paulin, left, and Anna Bucala celebrate after scoring runs to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning during the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal against Tahanto on Friday at Vets Field in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Greenfield’s Gloria McDonald (1) hauls in a catch in center field against Tahanto during the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal on Friday at Vets Field in Greenfield.

Greenfield’s Gloria McDonald (1) hauls in a catch in center field against Tahanto during the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal on Friday at Vets Field in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Tahanto pitcher Abby Bidinger (6) celebrates after recording the final out of her team’s 5-2 win over Greenfield in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal round at Vets Field in Greenfield on Friday.

Tahanto pitcher Abby Bidinger (6) celebrates after recording the final out of her team’s 5-2 win over Greenfield in the MIAA Division 5 quarterfinal round at Vets Field in Greenfield on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 06-07-2024 9:00 PM

GREENFIELD — After a sixth inning rally that tied the game against Tahanto, it appeared the Greenfield softball team had positioned itself to make a return to the MIAA Div. 5 Final Four.

Trailing the eighth-seeded Stags 2-0 in the state quarterfinals on Friday, the defending back-to-back state champion Green Wave showed championship mettle, rallying to put a pair across to tie the game going into the seventh. 

While it appeared top-seeded Greenfield had snatched the momentum, Tahanto had other ideas. Annah Long walked to open the seventh and Emma Vaillette singled before Chloe Cogswell smashed a double to right field, scoring Long to give the Stags the lead. 

With runners on second and third, Abby Bidinger dropped in a single to drive in two and give Tahanto a three-run cushion going into the bottom of the seventh. Bidinger, Tahanto’s pitcher, set down Greenfield in order in the seventh, with the Stags pulling off a 5-2 upset at Veterans Field, denying Greenfield a chance of a historic three-peat.

The loss snapped a 20-game overall win streak for the Green Wave and a 21-game postseason win streak that dated back to 2022. 

“You end up 22-2 on the season and it’s not what you wanted,” Greenfield coach Ray Dodge said, “but you absolutely can’t hang your head. At the beginning of the season I was asked my expectations and of course it was to win. You run into one pitcher on one day and you’re out.”

The Stags (14-6) will play the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal between No. 4 Georgetown and No. 5 Franklin Tech in the state semifinals next week.

Tahanto coach Steve Pacheco said he knew what his team was up against on Friday, having played the Green Wave in the state semifinals just last year — an 8-2 Greenfield win. Pacheco said he knew his team would need to play a near-perfect game to keep their season alive.

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“We learned they were a hell of a team when we played them last year,” Pacheco said of Greenfield. “We knew they had almost everyone coming back so we knew we had to play our most perfect game to give these guys a game. To my girls credit, they absolutely did. They stepped up big time.

“Greenfield is one of the best programs in the state, regardless of division,” Pacheco added. “For us to get a victory against them is a testament to my girls. I’m so proud of them.”

Bidinger certainly did her job to hold down a tough Greenfield lineup on Friday.

The Tahanto left-handed hurler limited the Green Wave to four hits, two coming in the third and two in the sixth. She struck out seven and walked just two, and the Stags defense didn’t make an error behind her. 

“She threw the ball well,” Dodge said of Bidinger. “She’s a lefty and threw a curve that we weren’t hitting.”

Scoreless after one, Tahanto’s Rylee Walton gave the Stags a big boost in the second.

Leading off the inning, Walton smashed a solo home run over the left field fence to give Tahanto the lead, but more importantly, confidence it could put the ball in play against Greenfield junior ace MacKenzie Paulin. 

“Rylee squared up on the ball and a big weight came off our shoulders,” Pacheco said. “They knew they could do it. [Paulin] is tremendous. We worked hard on getting to the ball and putting it in play and see what happens.”

Anna Bucala knocked the Green Wave’s first hit of the game with two outs in the third and Ainslee Flynn followed with a base hit, but Bidinger forced a ground out to get out of the inning unscathed.

The Stags added to their lead in the fifth. Elyse Schaffer reached on an error and with two outs, Cogswell launched a double to score her, giving Tahanto a 2-0 lead.

Greenfield rallied in the sixth with the top of its order.

Anna Bucala walked to open the inning before Paulin knocked a double just inside the left field line, putting runners on second and third. Carly Blanchard came to the plate and cracked a hit that scooted over first base and down the line in right for a double, plating Bucala and Paulin to tie the game 2-2. Blanchard was stranded at second, leaving the game tied going into the seventh.

“I was proud of the fight we showed in the sixth,” Dodge said.

Paulin finished with nine strikeouts, one walk and seven hits allowed.