Saturday, June 9, 2018

Christina Clark Pitches Burlington into the Quarterfinal

By Matt Feld (@Mattyfeld612)

Burlington, Mass. -- Kristen Mahoney-Farrell has been around this game long enough to understand the ramifications regarding early round playoff softball.

Minutes before Friday's Division 2 North first round game versus Pentucket, the nine-year Burlington coach continued to stress to her team the importance of not playing tight and performing up to their capabilities. That is precisely what the Red Devils accomplished during their 5-1 victory over Pentucket at Marvin Field.

Scoring all of its runs in the third inning, Burlington spent the remainder of the afternoon relying on its ace pitcher Christina Clark, along with a stout defense, to do the rest.

The sixth-seed Red Devils (16-4) advance to Sunday's quarterfinal where they will face No. 3 Triton Regional (17-2) in Byfield beginning at 1 p.m.

Sachems starting pitcher Mady Gatchell was not overpowering inside the circle however, the senior kept Burlington off-balance over the first two innings. But that changed one frame later. Jordan Ferullo led off the inning with a single and moved to second on Erin Browne's sacrifice bunt. Meghan Gaffney followed by legging out a bunt single. After Gaffney stole second, sophomore Chloe McGonagle ripped a 1-0 pitch to deep to left field for a two-run double to make it 2-0 Burlington. 

"The first two innings I was a little nervous because I thought we would come out a bit stronger," said McGonagle, who finished with three hits. "Sometimes that is where we struggle a bit because we don't come out hard enough in those first few innings. But I was pretty excited once we were able to get some runs in the third."

Two batters later with runners on the corners, a Fran Rubino sacrifice fly plated McGonagle with the Red Devils' third run. Clark quickly followed with an RBI single scoring Nikolopoulos. A few moments later, Clark came around to score the fifth tally thanks to Sydney Shinopulos's bloop single into right field.

"(Gatchell's) speed took us a little time to adjust to," Mahoney-Farrell said. "She was a little bit slower than what we are use to and we don't always hit slower pitching very well and that is why I am assuming they tossed her against us. But after a couple of innings we were able to time her and be more-selective on our pitches. The girls did a great job."

As was the case, that was all the ammunition Burlington would need on this warm afternoon. Clark, a junior, continued to baffle Pentucket. The right-hander allowed just five hits while fanning six. Primarily pitching to contact, Clark let her defensive mates handle much of the action as the Red Devils were stellar in the field behind her.

On a couple of occasions, the Sachems managed to threatened. In the top of the third, they put two runners on with two out before Clark induced Taylor Fitzpatrick to fly out.

In the sixth, Pentucket again made some noise after Caitlin Kutcher opened with a single and Julie Freitas reached on catcher's interference. Autumn West next lined a single to centerfield. With Kutcher being waved around, Rubino, the Red Devils' centerfielder, threw Kutcher out at the plate. A walk to Megan McCoy loaded the bases with two out. But Clark was able to avoid danger by getting Fitzpatrick to pop out to end the inning.

"We did OK," said Pentucket first-year coach Debbie Smith, who did a nice job in getting the Sachems to this point. "Clark is a very good pitcher. She has a good spin on the ball which had us popping up a lot. We needed to get runners in when they are in scoring position and we were unable to do that."

Pentucket managed a leadoff hit in the seventh, but Clark proceeded to set down the next three batters with ease and record the victory. 

"Christina battled hard today," Mahoney-Farrrell said. "She seemed to get stronger in tougher situations. She is just an awesome kid and is so coachable."

No comments :