Hardy, Redmen Send Danvers Packing
Brooke Hardy Pounded Out Three Extra-base Hits To Lead Tewksbury Over Danvers, 6-1.
Gallery: Tewksbury Over Danvers [23 Images] Click any image to expand.
LOWELL -- If the Danvers High softball team left Martin Field without saying a warm good bye to Tewksbury High shortstop Brooke Hardy Wednesday afternoon, well, who could blame them?
For the second straight year, Hardy and her TMHS teammates upset the top-ranked Falcons in the MIAA state tournament, trouncing Danvers 6-1 and earning a berth in the Division 2 North Sectional championship game against Dracut this Sunday.
Danvers had entered the game ranked No. 2 in Division 2 North with a 17-3 record, but that mattered little to Hardy. All she did was collect three extra-base hits, crushing a double and two triples, while scoring two runs in leading Tewksbury back to the sectional title game for the second year in a row.
“She’s amazing,” said TMHS coach Leo “Doc” DiRocco of Hardy. “She can do about four things with that bat in her hand, she really can. She can drag, she can slap, she can place it down and she can hit line drives….She’s a little girl but she’s solid as hell.”
On Wednesday, it was the line drives – the ringing, Duck-or-you’ll-get-hurt kind of line drives -- that spelled doom for Danvers. Hardy hit four of them (the last was a frozen rope that found the center fielder’s glove like a heat-seeking missile) while the 17 other batters on the two teams were settling for the occasional infield hit or bleeder up the middle.
“She’s one of the best we’ve ever had,” said DiRocco, who has coached Tewksbury softball for more than 20 years. “If I had to choose a top five, it would be tough, but she’d definitely be one of them.”
Hardy, who will play softball at Division 1 Jacksonville University next year, got Tewksbury on the board in the top of the first, almost before Danvers pitcher Kendall Meehan could scuff up the mound to her liking. Hardy led off the game with a blistering double to left center, and took third on center fielder Marissa Doherty’s sacrifice bunt. Two pitches later, she scampered home on a passed ball.
After Danvers tied the game at one apiece in the second inning, Hardy tripled to left field in the fifth to set the table for what would eventually be the game winning run. Doherty, the diminutive freshman who still might not be big enough to go on some Disney rides, came through in the clutch with a two-out, slap-hit single to drive in Hardy with the go-ahead run.
Tewksbury’s talented group of underclassmen sealed the victory with a four-run outburst in the sixth inning. Junior left fielder Erin Walsh walked, and freshmen Adriana Favreau and Teagan Trant both scratched out infield singles to load the bases. Junior second baseman Anna Sessa brought in Walsh on a fielder’s choice, then freshman Kayla VonKahle and sophomore Kirsten Dick laid down successful, run-producing sacrifice bunts.
Meanwhile, senior pitcher Shannon McLaughlin got stronger by the inning, refusing to allow Danvers to even think about staging a comeback. McLaughlin allowed just one unearned run on three hits. She walked three and struck out nine, turning in her third straight dominating effort in the 2014 state tournament. Over the past six days of state tournament play, McLaughlin has tossed two shutouts, struck out 28 batters, allowed just six hits and compiled a 3-0 record with a 0.00 earned run average.
“She went to her senior prom last night but she still came in here fired up and ready to go,” DiRocco said of McLaughlin. “That’s just the kind of kid she is.”
Hardy was the only Tewksbury batter to collect more than one hit against Meehan, but the TMHS underclassmen played solid defense behind McLaughlin, and dropped down four successful sacrifice bunts.
“The freshmen got the ball down when they had to today and they did a nice job defensively,” DiRocco said. “This is a huge win for us.”
For the Redmen, Sunday will mark their sixth trip to the sectional championship game in DiRocco’s tenure. They have yet to bring home a sectional title, however, last year losing a 6-5 nail-biter to Burlington.
Getting their two senior leaders a shot at avenging that defeat was a concept not lost on the Tewksbury underclassmen yesterday.
"They mean everything to us,” Marissa Doherty said of Hardy and McLaughlin “We try to do everything we can to win for them. We really wanted to get to (Sunday’s sectional championship) for them because they didn’t win it last year, and they’re such good leaders. They’re just awesome.”
“It’s so exciting because we didn’t get it done last year, Burlington beat us out,” Hardy said. “But I’m expecting a really good game in the final. I’m really excited for it.”
“It’s huge for me and Brooke, but we’re so proud of everybody on this team,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve really played as a team in the post-season this year and I think that’s the most important thing. We’re excited and we’re ready to go.”
Tewksbury will be very familiar with Sunday's opponent, having split a pair of games with Merrimack Valley Conference rival Dracut this season. Dracut edged Arlington Catholic, 6-5, Wednesday evening to advance to the Division 2 North title game, which will be played Sunday afternoon at 3:00 at Martin Field in Lowell.