Softball Earns Share of League Title… May 20, 2015
By Jess Thomas
The Nashoba Regional High School softball team mounted two comebacks to beat Hudson, 6-4, on Monday, May 18 on the road to take a share of the Midland-Wachusett B league title.
“We have a lot of respect for their program,” head coach Steve Kendall said. “They’re well coached, they play the game right and they don’t make mistakes.
“So to be able to come in here and get a win and get a share of the league championship is a good feeling for us,” Kendall said.
Nashoba (11-5) and Hudson (8-6) each finish the season with an 8-2 league record. Both of the Hawks’ losses were to the Chieftains. Nashoba also beat Hudson, 6-5, on May 6 at home.
These were the two hottest clubs in the league coming into Monday’s action, as the Hawks had won eight of the last nine games and the Chieftains had won five of six by a combined score of 63-6.
Nashoba came back from 2 two-run deficits in this game, showing mental toughness – a topic the team has stressed all year long, according to Kendall.
“I think we maybe lacked it at the beginning of the year, but we’ve worked on it,” Kendall said. “I’d still say the turning point for the season for us was a 15-1 loss to Fitchburg where we pretty much had no resiliency at all.
“We had a team meeting after that and said it’s one thing to lose, but to not put the effort in is unacceptable, and since then we’re 9-2,” Kendall said.
Resiliency and mental toughness were certainly not an issue against Hudson as the bottom of the Nashoba batting order came up huge all night long.
Trailing 2-0 after three innings, number six hitter Kali Cook, a junior, hit a single up the middle with one out. Junior Rachel Farley followed with a walk, which brought up number eight hitter, sophomore Sam Maglione.
“Dropped her from six to eight today and it made a big difference, less pressure on her,” Kendall said.
Maglione ripped an RBI double to the left field corner over the fielder’s head to get the Chieftains within a run.
Freshman Hannah Gaffney produced an RBI groundout, scoring Farley and tying the game at two.
Kendall said, “Hannah Gaffney’s been flirting around .400 all season. She hasn’t played regularly, but when she’s played, she’s done a good job and she did again tonight.”
After Hudson regained the lead, 4-2, in the fifth inning, Cook led off the sixth for Nashoba and she led the charge again with her second single of the game. She finished 3-for-4 with three singles and two runs.
“Kali Cook has been hitting the ball a ton lately,” Kendall said. “She had slumped at the beginning of the year, but we just told her to stay with it because she hit the ball last year as a sophomore, so we just knew it was a matter of time.”
The usual suspects were at it again, as Farley walked for a second time and Maglione also walked to load the bases after falling behind 0-2.
Gaffney found herself at the plate in the most important situation of the year and she came through with a 2-RBI double past shortstop. A third run scored on an errant throw and Gaffney made it to third, giving her squad a 5-4 lead.
Senior Erin Cressman drove her in with an infield single that she beat at first to give the Chieftains a 6-4 lead, which turned out to be the final.
Senior Meghan MacAskill pitched a complete game for Nashoba, working out of a few jams and keeping her team in the ballgame.
“She pitched tough and she’s been great all season,” Kendall said. “That’s a good lineup. She had to battle a little bit there but she’s been in tough situations during the season so we know we can get out of them and she did another good job tonight.”
Perhaps the most crucial point of the game for MacAskill was in the bottom of the fifth inning. She retired the first two hitters of the inning with ease, but after walking the third batter, things went south quickly.
The next batter hit a grounder past first, where senior Andrea LaBonte dove for the ball and came up empty. Farley came up with the ball at second, but LaBonte was off the bag and no out was recorded.
Two RBI singles followed the freak play and Hudson was up 4-2 with second and third and two outs. Kendall visited the mound and they had a team meeting, knowing that one more hit would be a 6-2 Hudson lead with only two innings remaining.
“I just said, ‘We’re down two, but we’ve got to keep it at two because we’re going to score more runs,’” Kendall said. “I just reminded them that we’ve been in this situation a bunch of times.”
MacAskill retired the next hitter on a fly out to center field to end the threat.
“It was just a good performance and just a reminder that they can do these things, and they did,” Kendall said.
Nashoba exploded in the sixth and MacAskill shut down Hudson 1-2-3 in the sixth and seventh innings to give the Chieftains their fourth straight victory.
There are a couple more non-league games for Nashoba to improve even more before the playoffs begin.
“Our goal is to be better at game 20 than we were in game 1 and through 16, we’re that,” Kendall said. “Then we’ll get into the postseason and see what happens.”