Friday, June 2, 2017

Late-Game Fireworks Propel Shrewsbury Softball Past St. Peter-Marian

By John McGuirk (@patsfan1313)

SHREWSBURY - Down, but certainly not out, Shrewsbury was still in search of a turning point that it could feast upon.

In the St. Peter-Marian fourth inning, it finally came. With the Guardians on top by a run, loading the bases, they sat on the cusp of putting a dagger in the backs of the Colonials once and for all.

But lo and behold, Shrewsbury pitcher Molly O'Neill found a way to tight-rope her way out of trouble by not allowing the Guardians to add to their total, as the junior walked out of the circle unscathed.

As a result, the Colonials quickly seized momentum, scoring six times in the fifth, and adding four more in the sixth, to runaway with a convincing 11-4 triumph in the quarterfinal round of the Division 1 Central Mass. tournament.

It took a while for No. 4 Shrewsbury (14-7) to gather up some offensive steam, but once it did, there was no holding it back. The Colonials banged out 11 hits against Guardian starter Jodi Opuda, and will now face the winner of Sunday's Wachusett/Holy Name contest in the semifinal round on Tuesday at a time and site to be determined.

"Our kids have been focusing on winning one inning at a time," said first-year Shrewsbury coach Jamie Millett. "Once we had a couple of successful innings in a row you could see our momentum build. We hit the ball well today. The last time we faced (Opuda), she held us to just three hits in a 3-0 loss. Today was the exact opposite for us."

Trailing 2-1, Shrewsbury finally got its offense kick started in the bottom of the fifth. Taylor Dunphy led off with a single and was sacrificed to second. Sasha Brownstein then reached on a bunt single. But on the play, second baseman Lauren Moran, moving over to cover first, let the ball sail off her glove which sent Dunphy home with the tying run.  Things continued to boil over for SPM once Gianna Simone launched a triple to right to give the Colonials their first lead. A ground out led to another run before a run-scoring single by Samantha Hallice, and a 2 RBI triple from Ally Tocman, had the Colonials comfortably in front 7-2.

After serving up a pair of runs in the top half of the third, O'Neill (11 hits, 3 Ks) seemed to buckle down. The right-hander kept No. 5 SPM (14-7) away from the scoreboard over the next three frames before Mia Cariglia's two-run single in the seventh inched the Guardians a bit closer.

Shrewsbury cut the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the third thanks to a SPM error and an RBI double off the bat of Gracie O'Hara. That served as a prelude of better things to come for the Colonials.

After sending 10 to the plate in the decisive fifth inning, Shrewsbury continued to stay on the attack versus Opuda in the sixth. Singles by Brownstein and Simone had both of them in scoring position with one out. A Meg Power SAC fly followed up by a Livi Digirolamo single extended the lead to 9-2. A short time later, Hallice, a sophomore, smashed an opposite field two-run shot over the right field fence which Shrewsbury ahead by nine.

"We knew we had to string together hits against them," said Hallice, who finished with three hits. "Today we got our hits when we needed them. Everyone helped to get us this win today. Everything just seemed to be put together perfectly which is what we were looking for. Everybody on this team can hit and I have confidence in each and every one of them."

Refusing to bow out quietly, the Guardians attempted a mini-comeback in their final at bats. After Cariglia's 2 RBI single, O'Neill managed to halt things and keep SPM from inflicting further damage.

"Shrewsbury showed up to play and we knew that they would," Guardians coach Kristen Landers said. "They were able to capitalize when they had girls on. We were just not able to do that. We hit, we stole and we laid down bunts but we just couldn't do it when we needed to. Molly pitched a great game for them and kept us at bay. We work on hitting all the time and she made it so we couldn't move runners up a base when we had them on."

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