ACTON, Mass. -- With Acton-Boxborough’s Sarah Ropiak and Milford’s Shannon Smith working in the circle, it was possible that something as slight as a howling wind might create the margin between winning and losing.
As the gales whipped across the diamond at Acton-Boxborough Regional on Monday, the teams’ aces were undaunted. The matched each other strikeout for strikeout nearly throughout. But the only thing that separated the No. 2 Hawks and the No. 3 Colonials in the end were a couple of first-inning walks and one, solitary run score on a wild pitch.
“I told the girls we needed to find a way to scrape across a run any way that we could,” Milford head coach Brian Macchi recounted his pregame remarks before the Hawks’ 1-0 win.
That run came in the Hawks’ first at-bat. After working a one-out walk, Milford second baseman Lauren Hanna took a tour of the base paths with a stolen base, advancing to third on a wild pitch and also scoring the game’s only run off another wild pitch.
Ropiak was undaunted despite the early setback, settling into a complete-game two-hitter, while striking out 13.
Of course, Smith was on par as well. The junior, who’s one season removed from her performance as a Gatorade Massachusetts Player of the Year, struck out 17 while surrendering a pair of hits and two walks.
Smith struck out the side in both the sixth and seventh innings — despite allowing base-runners in each — capping the complete-game win.
“The umpire really seemed to like to call the outside corner, so you to adjust to that and make sure you’re throwing to where they’re calling and whatever works for you best,” Smith said.
With Smith nibbled and lived on the outside corner with great success thanks to her curveball, the Colonials (0-1) weren’t able to compensate at the plate.
“We weren’t able to learn today that she kept going at us outside,” A-B head coach Mary Matthews said. “We weren’t adjusting our feet and trying to send it the other way.”
PUTTING DEPTH TO USE
Milford (3-0) was without its starting catcher Taylor Archer (out 2-3 weeks with an ankle injury) coming into the game, so freshman Taylor LeBrun got the nod behind the plate.
The Hawks’ backstop situation went from bad to worse in the fifth, when LeBrun left the game with an ankle injury while sliding into second base on a caught stealing. Macchi then turned to starting shortstop and resident do-it-all Sam Bonvino.
However, Bonvino hasn’t had time to work behind the plate in the early season due to a back injury of her own. Still, the sophomore did an exemplary job, filling in a tough spot and working with Smith.
The Milford hurler credited the work all of her catchers have put in, making it easier for her to do her job.
“I have confidence in all of them,” Smith said of her battery mates.
Now all the Hawks need is to stay healthy.
“We’re a bit of a walking wounded team right now, but as I told the team, it’s better to happen now then at the end of the season,” Macchi said. “We’re going to heal up and keep trying to find ways to win games.”