TMHS Softballers Are Sectional Champions
Brooke Hardy Tags Out A Dracut Runner At Second Base
Gallery: Sectional Champs [21 Images] Click any image to expand.
LOWELL -- Considering all the supremely talented Tewksbury High softball teams that had rung up so many victories without ever having won a sectional championship, it’s doubtful that TMHS coach Leo “Doc” DiRocco spent any time clearing a spot on his mantle for any new trophies this spring.
What with six freshmen on the varsity roster and only two seniors returning from a talented team that came up just short last year, even the eternally optimistic DiRocco wasn’t getting his hopes up too high this spring.
So don’t blame DiRocco if he could barely contain his emotions Sunday afternoon at Martin Field when his improbable band of over-achievers toppled Dracut, 4-1, in the MIAA state tournament to capture the school’s first-ever Division 2 North Sectional Championship.
“It’s unbelievable! These kids, I can’t believe it,” DiRocco said, holding back tears. “I mean, this is a good program, so we always expect to win. But with six freshmen and only two seniors? It’s unbelievable. When you least expect something, that’s when you get it.”
Tewksbury’s dynamic senior duo of shortstop Brooke Hardy and pitcher Shannon McLaughlin once again led the way, with McLaughlin shutting down a potent Dracut offense that had scored 29 runs in its three previous state tournament games leading up to the sectional championship. The fireballing right hander scattered six hits, struck out four and walked only two in notching her 18th victory of the season.
Hardy flashed leather all over the field in support of McLaughlin, and drove in the tying run and scored what eventually stood up as the winning run in Tewksbury’s four-run third inning rally. In four tournament games, Hardy has a stratospheric .643 batting average (9-for-14), and she has scored seven runs. None of Tewksbury’s four opponents has held Hardy to fewer than two hits.
“We’ve only got two seniors, but they did a helluva a job leading us,” DiRocco said. “I don’t know what else to say, I’m just thrilled for them.”
Things didn’t look promising for Tewksbury in the early going of Sunday’s game, as Dracut drew first blood in the top of the second inning on a controversial play. With two outs and a runner on third, TMHS third baseman Kirsten Dick appeared to have squashed the Middies’ threat with a strong play on a slow roller. Although the throw to first appeared to have beaten the runner by a full step, the first-base umpire signaled “safe,” and Dracut pinch runner Lauren Byam scampered home with the game’s first run.
It was a potentially crushing blow in the most important game that any of the Tewksbury girls had ever played in, but the Redmen seemed to take it in stride.
“Our mentality is that we can’t win unless we get at least one run anyway, and it was only one run,” Hardy said. “We knew we could score on this team, so it was just a matter of time.”
“I think we knew we were the better team,” McLaughlin said. “Everyone
makes mistakes, umpires make mistakes. But we did a good job of picking
ourselves up and not letting it get us down.”
Undaunted, Tewksbury battled back in the bottom of the third with a two-out rally that will go down in TMHS softball history as one of the most significant ever. Dick, batting ninth, slammed a triple to center field, and just two pitches later, Hardy followed with a sharply-hit roller up the middle, plating Dick and tying the game.
Freshman center fielder Marissa Doherty then singled, and McLaughlin walked to load the bases. Junior left fielder Erin Walsh also drew a walk, forcing in Hardy with the go-ahead run. Freshman right fielder Adriana Favreau followed with a double into center field, knocking in Doherty and pinch runner Allie Joseph to make it 4-1.
“There’s no quit in our kids,” DiRocco said. “They (Dracut) got a run they probably didn’t deserve, but we weren’t worried. There’s no quit in our kids.”
Dracut didn’t exactly tap out after Tewksbury’s four-run third. The Middies had runners on base in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but McLaughlin and the TMHS defense refused to buckle. McLaughlin seemed to get stronger as she went, retiring the final six Dracut batters in order, and a celebration ensued.
“It’s the most amazing feeling,” Hardy said afterward. “I’m pumped. My adrenalin is still going.”
“It’s an honor to do what so many other great teams couldn’t do,” McLaughlin said. “This a great team and this was a total team win, and we’re not done yet.”
Tewksbury now moves on to the Division 2 state semi-finals, where the Redmen will face the South Sectional champion Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m. at Taunton High School. The South Sectional championship game will be played Monday night in Taunton.
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