Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, “ ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”
That phrase is appropriate for every team that competes in the post season state tournament, save the last team standing that wins it all. For everyone else, it was nice to get there, even if losing means a bittersweet end to an otherwise successful season.
For the Winthrop High softball team, which got knocked out of tourney play by a decisive 20-4 score to St. Mary’s of Lynn on Monday in the quarterfinals of the Division 3 North sectional, that final contest by no means detracts from a superlative year that was highlighted by a nice run in the tourney that saw the Lady Vikings post a pair of victories.
The state tournament began for Winthrop last Thursday when the Lady Vikings played host to Northeast Regional. “The first round can be the most difficult,” said veteran WHS head coach Dave Guffey. “You play teams that you have never seen and there is always a lot of nervous energy.”
Northeast started the game with a walk, a hit batter, and a single to load the bases, followed by a sacrifice fly that gave the visitors a quick 1-0 lead. WHS starting pitcher Alex Ferri then issued another free pass to reload the bases.
However, that’s when Winthrop’s MVP catcher Abby Belcher sprang into action. As she has done all season, Belcher rifled a pick off throw to third baseman Kristen Lanza, who caught the napping Northeast runner in a rundown for the out. As that was happening, the Northeast runner on second tried to sneak into third, but the alert Lanza made a quick throw to shortstop Haley Benson, who was covering the bag and who applied the tag to get Winthrop out of the jam.
Winthrop would tie the game in the bottom of the first. Belcher walked, moved up on a passed ball, and then came home on a base hit up the middle by Benson.
The Lady Vikings then took the lead in the second with two runs. Base hits by Ferri and Liana Ferullo were followed by a double by Belcher for 3-1 advantage.
Winthrop then added a pair of extra insurance runs in the sixth. Ferullo drew a base on balls and scored on another two bagger by Belcher. After Abby moved to third on a passed ball, a suicide squeeze by Elaine Lanza brought her home.
Meanwhile, Ferri gave way on the mound to Elaine Lanza because of stiffness in her back. Lanza, the senior captain who has blossomed as a leader, sat the visitors down quietly, giving up only two hits until the seventh when Northeast made some noise with three hits and a walk to cut the margin to 5- 3.
Guffey called a quick timeout to regroup his troops and then Lanza and her teammates ended the game with two harmless ground outs.
For the second round of the playoffs, the Lady Vikings had to hit the road Saturday afternoon to take on a 15-5 Matignon team.
The match up shaped up as a low scoring affair with strong pitching and defense on both sides. Ferri was back in form and tossed a shutout, giving up only six hits and fanning 10 enemy batters.
The game was quiet in the early going, with Winthrop’s Benson getting the only hit for either side until the third inning. But that’s when Ferri led off the inning with a single and with one out, Belcher stepped in and crushed a triple down the left field line to bring Ferri across the plate with the first run of the game. Elaine Lanza then executed yet another perfect suicide squeeze to deliver Belcher to make it 2-0.
After Benson walked and Lanza was lifted for a pinch runner, Janelle Gillespie, Andrea Martucci delivered a big, two out double to raise the lead to 4-0.
The Lady Vikings then showed that pitching and defense win in the tournament. Matignon threatened in the fourth, placing runners on first and second with one out and their clean up hitter at the plate. The Matignon girl blasted a shot down the right field line, but a web gem by Amanda Brogna kept Matignon off the score board.
In the next inning the Lady Vikings got to show off their “D” again. With the bases loaded, thanks to a double and two walks, and none out, it looked like Matignon was going to make a game of it. But the next Matignon batter hit the ball to shortstop Benson, who fired home to Belcher to cut down that run. Ferri then squashed the threat with back to back Ks to end the rally.
Winthrop was coasting along until the seventh and final inning. With a 3-2 count to the first hitter, the ump called time for a lightning delay that lasted an hour and featured a brief rain storm. The Lady Vikings had to come back and end the game, which Ferri and her team accomplished with a strike out, a fly out, and a ground out, which sent Winthrop along its Journey to the Tourney for the fateful contest Monday at St. Mary’s, who showed why they are the defending D-3 state champs and probably on course for another crown.
The Winthrop defense shone early when, after St. Mary’s had gotten off to a 1-0 lead in the first and had two runners aboard, Brogna made another nice catch in right and then threw a strike to Belcher to get the St. Mary’s girl who had tagged up from third
However, in the following frame, St. Mary’s parlayed a bunch of hits, a number of walks, and some nicely placed bunts to put up 10 runs on the board. Winthrop got some back with four markers in the third thanks to some St. Mary’s errors and hits by Rachel DelSolio and Elaine Lanza, but the home team tacked on another nine tallies in the bottom of the inning.
The contest was called after four and one half frames because of the mercy rule.
Still, Guffey and Crew have a lot of good memories to look back upon. The offensive leaders for the season were Belcher, with a .488 average, 31 runs, 10 doubles, five triples, two homers and 27 RBI; Benson with a .455 avg., 19 runs, seven doubles, two triples, and 19 RBI; and Ferullo with a .397 avg., 23 runs, two doubles, two triples, and seven RBI.
In the pitching department, Ferri tossed 124 innings with 132 strikeouts, an ERA of 3.60, and an 11-7 record. Elaine Lanza pitched 37 innings with 23 Ks, an ERA of 2.31, and a 4-1 record.