It's Not Over Yet For Hardy, McLaughlin
Senior captain Brooke Hardy scored the lone run in Tewksbury's 1-0 win over Arlington
Gallery: Tewksbury over Arlington, 1-0 [16 Images] Click any image to expand.
ARLINGTON – Clearly, they are not done yet.
It took Tewksbury High’s dynamic duo of Brooke Hardy and Shannon McLaughlin a little longer than usual, but the senior tandem extended the TMHS softball team’s 2014 season at least one more game by virtue of a nail-biting 1-0, extra-innings victory over Arlington in the second round of the MIAA state tournament Sunday afternoon.
Hardy singled and later scored the game’s only run in the top of the eighth inning, and McLaughlin shut out the Spy Ponders on two hits while striking out eight, as Tewksbury earned the right to face Danvers in the Division 1 North Sectional semi-finals on Wednesday.
“We definitely didn’t want this to be our last game (as seniors),” said Hardy afterward. “We tried not to think too much about it during the game, but overall, we’re really excited with this win.”
After seven scoreless innings, Hardy, who had two of Tewksbury’s six hits in the game, led off the top of the eighth with a single, and advanced to second on freshman centerfielder Marissa Doherty’s sacrifice bunt. Hardy took third on McLaughlin’s infield hit, and one out later the Jacksonville University bound TMHS shortstop scampered home as freshman right fielder Adrianna Favreau beat out an infield hit.
McLaughlin then stepped in and retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth, and Tewksbury had advanced.
“They’re tremendous leaders,” said TMHS coach Leo “Doc” DiRocco of Hardy and McLaughlin “They took over in the late innings and kept everybody calmed down. When Brooke got that hit she was determined to get down that line. “
For McLaughlin, the win was her 16th of the season and the 40th of her career. After allowing four base runners (two hits, two walks) in the middle innings, the powerful right hander settled down and retired the final seven batters she faced. McLaughlin had already thrown a one-hit shutout at Newburyport in the team’s opening round state tournament win on Friday, and has now thrown 15 consecutive scoreless innings in state tournament play.
McLaughlin, however, was quick to credit her teammates for this shut out win, as Hardy, second baseman Anna Sessa, third baseman Kirsten Dick and first baseman Kayla VonKahle all made strong defensive plays behind McLaughlin when Arlington threatened to get on the board in the middle innings.
“It was phenomenal,” said McLaughlin of the team’s defensive effort. “I can’t even describe how happy I am that they played so great behind me. They played great behind me and the bats came back and it was an awesome win.”
The victory was even sweeter considering the fact that Arlington starting pitcher Melanie DeAlmeida looked almost unhittable for the first six innings of the game. Other than a ringing double to center by Hardy in the third, Tewksbury barely got a bat on the ball until designated hitter Teagan Trant led off with a single in the fifth. But in the seventh, the Redmen seemed to figure DeAlmeida out, as Favreau, Trant and Sessa all reached to load the bases with two outs, before a controversial called third strike got DeAlmeida out of the jam.
Then in the eighth, Hardy, McLaughlin and their posse of talented underclassmen finally broke through, giving Tewksbury the win.
“I think, seeing her for the third time around, we started to figure her out,” McLaughlin said. “I think everyone just really wanted it. It doesn’t matter who the pitcher is. If we want it bad enough, we’ll go out and get the hits we need to win.”
Arlington entered the game with a 17-4 record. The Spy Ponders were ranked as the No. 3 seed in the North Sectional. The Redmen were seeded sixth.
DiRocco, who has taken his Tewksbury High softball teams to 19 straight state tournaments, was thrilled with the victory.
“This is an absolutely fantastic win,” DiRocco said. “That’s the best pitcher we’ve seen, no question. I couldn’t be happier than this.”
Tewksbury will now face Danvers on Wednesday, June 4th at 4:00 p.m. in the sectional semi-finals. That game will be played at Martin Field in Lowell, and the winner will earn a berth in the Division 2 North Sectional championship game. In 2013, Danvers entered the state tournament as the No. 1 seed in the North Sectional, only to be eliminated by 8th-ranked Tewksbury in the quarterfinal round. This year, Danvers entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed with a 17-3 record, and advanced to next Wednesday’s game with a 4-2 win over No. 7 Reading on Sunday.