Nashoba’s Bats Erupt in Playoff Win Over Fitchburg
BOLTON -- If you like offense, you would have enjoyed this one.
In a game that featured the same amount of hits as runs (26 each), the seventh-seeded Nashoba Regional softball team outlasted 10th-seeded Fitchburg, 14-12, in Thursday’s Central Mass. Division 1 first-round clash.
With the win, Nashoba ran its record to 8-13, while Fitchburg saw its season end at 11-10. The Chieftains advance to play second-seeded Shrewsbury on Saturday at 3 p.m.
“We have had two games with them, one has been not so good and the other one was very good,” Nashoba head coach Steve Kendall said about Shrewsbury. “Earlier in the year they mercied us, and a few weeks ago we had them 3-2 in the seventh before they hit their way to a win. It’s going to be a tough game for us. But for a young team that many expected to not make the playoffs, this is a good accomplishment to be back in the quarterfinals.”
The game was back-and-forth throughout, with the turning point coming in the third inning. With Nashoba holding a 2-1 lead after two innings, the Red Raiders came storming back with five runs in the top of the third to take a 6-2 lead.
Leadoff hitter Emma Auger (3 for 4, 2 RBIs, 2 runs) got one of her two hits in the inning to open things up in the top of the third. Auger scored the Red Raiders’ first run of the frame when she came home on a Lily Encarncion RBI single to center. Hannah Faulkner followed that up with her lone hit of the contest for an RBI single. Fitchburg then scored two runs on a pair of bases-loaded walks, before Auger ripped an RBI single to left field.
But as all good teams do, Nashoba had an answer in the bottom of the third, plating five runs of its own to take a 7-6 lead. Gigi Zarrella (3 for 4, 2 RBIs, 2 runs) ripped a single to left field, plating Abby Crowell (3 for 4, 2 RBIs, 2 runs). Following an RBI groundout by Ally Gruca, Vicki Tuttle (2 for 5, 2 RBIs, 2 runs) roped a single to center to score Zarrella and Hannah Gaffney, making it 7-6 in favor of the hosts.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it, we have been in that situation a number of times this year,” Kendall said. “We have had innings where we have given up five or six runs and had to battle back, so there’s not a lot of panic there for us. It is a real credit to the girls and the mental toughness they have showed throughout the year.”
Heading into the top of the seventh, Nashoba held a 14-9 lead. Following back-to-back singles from Rebecca Selin and Pierce, Auger ripped a double to deep right-center. Auger later scored on an error and Fitchburg had two runners in scoring position when Faulkner lined out to right to end the game.
“They have battled all year,” Fitchburg High coach Mike Pelland said. “I actually expected us to come back, because we have done it all year. I thought that ball was going to go by the right fielder. I wouldn’t have been shocked, because we did it up at Oakmont. These kids just won’t go away. But we gave away too much today.”
Fitchburg senior Audrey Johnson belted a two-run homer to center in her final game.