AMHERST – The bottom third of the Westfield lineup managed just two hits from their 16 at-bats during their two games at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst this weekend.
One of those hits came at the absolute perfect time.
Right fielder Annalise Eak, batting in the No. 7 spot of the lineup, broke the deadlock in the bottom of the seventh inning, lining a game-winning RBI single to right field to seal a 1-0 win over No. 2 Longmeadow and award top-seeded Westfield the Western Massachusetts Division 1 championship.
“I just wanted it so badly,” said Eak. “I just got up there with the mentality that I had to do it for my team. I saw the pitch that I wanted. I had been zoning in on the one spot I wanted. We just capitalized on the opportunities that we had.”
In a tightly-contested pitcher’s duel mirroring the lone regular season matchup, the Bombers (23-0) entered the final frame with just two hits—both by catcher Kaitlyn Puza. Karly Mastello flared a shot to right field, dropping in between three Lancer fielders. After a Rachel Swords sacrifice bunt, Eak lined her game-winning shot, allowing Mastello to score the lone run.
“I told our girls the key to this game was getting the bat on the ball and make their defense have to play,” said Westfield head coach Joe Stella. “The first time through, we’ll try a few things. It took a while, but in that last inning we were able to piece a couple things together.”
For most of the game, two of the region’s premier pitchers dominated the stage and the storylines. University of Connecticut commit Jill Stockley allowed just four batters to reach base before the final innings for the Lancers (18-5).
Westfield pitcher Sarah McNerney needed just four pitches to finish the first inning, a microcosm of the outing she’d have.
“I think keeping the ball down is the big thing,” said Stella. “We needed to buckle down. We didn’t want the bottom of the order to be setting the table for the top of the order either. She did what she had to do and she kept her focus.”
The senior had a perfect game intact until Stockley reached on an error and kept up her no-hitter until Sarah Whitney lined a single up the middle in the fifth inning. The Bomber ace allowed just one more hit en route to a two-hit shutout with four strikeouts.
“We just had to keep going back to doing what we have to do,” said McNerney. “My whole defense was amazing. I’m so blessed to have them behind me. We are one team and everyone contributes. No one carries the whole team.”
Longmeadow’s lone serious threat came in the top of the seventh inning. After Cam Boutin reached on the second of Westfield’s two errors, Stockley reached on a bunt single. With two on and one out, Ally Mishol lined a groundball to third baseman Maddy Atkocaitis, who stepped on third base before firing over to first for the crucial double play.
The senior on the hot corner accounted for one-third of the total outs defensively.
“That’s where I want the ball to be hit,” Stella chuckled. “I’ll take my chances there.”
Westfield’s next game is the Division 1 State semifinal at Worcester State University Tuesday against Holy Name of Worcester. The Naps (21-3) defeated Shepherd Hill, 9-1, this weekend to claim their eighth championship. First pitch is at 7 p.m.