Saturday, June 3, 2017

Fagan Does it All for Shepherd Hill Softball in Upset of Nashoba

Shepherd Hill's Cayley Fagan excelled both in the circle as a pitcher, and in the batter's box for the Rams.
By John McGuirk (@patsfan1313)

BOLTON - Three errors in one inning, which resulted in three runs by the opposition had many guessing if Shepherd Hill was in over its head during Saturday's Central Mass Division 1 quarterfinal against Nashoba Regional.

Coming in as the underdog, few gave the sixth-seeded Rams much of a shot against the third-seeded Chieftains. Adding to that belief was the fact that, only a week ago, Nashoba blanked Shepherd Hill in its regular-season finale.

But the postseason can be a different animal. Playing with a nothing to lose attitude, the Rams continued to force the issue throughout by staying close. As the game wore on, Shepherd Hill's confidence level continued to rise. Inside its dugout, there was a growing belief that they could get the job done.

Indeed. Cayley Fagan's solo home run in the top of the sixth inning, off of Nashoba starting pitcher Taylor Colvin, was the difference as Shepherd Hill prevailed 4-3.

Fagan, who went 3  for 3 at the plate with 2 RBIs, took Colvin's 1-2 fastball deep over the left field fence to begin the frame.

“I had two strikes on me so I knew I needed to swing at anything close," said Fagan. "Their pitcher's stuff was really tough. Our whole team has been hitting so well and I knew that I needed to contribute somehow and, fortunately, I was able to do it today.”

The Rams (14-8) will move on to Tuesday's semifinal round where they will face defending CMass champion Doherty beginning at 5 p.m. from Rockwood Field in Worcester. The two teams did not meet during the regular season.

Nashoba (15-6) had a chance to tie or perhaps win the game in the seventh after putting two runners on board with two out. But Fagan, who also pitched well inside the circle, was able to squirm out of the jam by inducing a game-ending ground out. The sophomore righty allowed eight hits and struck out six. Three of those hits belonged to senior Gina Hinckley, including the 100th of her fine career with the Chieftains.

The Rams wasted little time jumping on Colvin (7 hits, 2 Ks). In the initial frame, a single by Dani Donnelly and a Sophia Sciarappa triple netted them their first run. Sciarappa's time on third base was albeit brief as she trotted home on Kiley Wong-Li's bullet double down the left field line for a 2-0 advantage.

But Nashoba is too talented a team not to come back. The Chieftains did just that in their half of the second. Capitalizing on three Shepherd Hill errors and three hits, Nashoba moved in front 3-2. With the bases loaded, and one out, a walk to Hannah Gaffney produced the Chieftains' first run. Bailey Nelson followed by lining an RBI single into right. On the play, right fielder Hailey Delphia bobbled the ball that resulted in a third run crossing the plate.

At that point, it would have been easy for the Rams to start coming unglued. Yet they showed no signs of discontent heading back to their dugout. Shepherd Hill continued to carry that demeanor up to the plate with them to start the third. With two outs and Sciarappa, who walked, standing on second, Fagan delivered a clutch RBI single to center to knot things at 3-3.

"Cayley was phenomenal today," Rams first-year coach Donny Loos said. "I thought both pitchers were really on their games. For us, it has been a different kid coming up big all year and today, Cayley was the one who came up big in the circle and at the plate. She is a kid who feeds off of the pressure. She just seems to get stronger when she knows the moment is big and knows when the team needs her to get an out. It's a true testament as to how good a player she really is."

Over the next two innings, both pitchers seemed to settle down and work effectively with neither club threatening. With everything still up for grabs, Fagan strode to the plate in the top of the sixth, found her pitch, and delivered one of the biggest hits of her young career much to the dismay of the Chieftains.

"I figured this would be a one run game either way," Nashoba coach Steve Kendall said. "We had plenty of chances to score runs but we couldn't do it when we had to. I'm proud of these girls. We have one of the best records in school history by playing the toughest schedule we've ever played. Shepherd Hill is a very good hitting team and Fagan came away with that big hit late. Credit her and them."

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