LOWELL, Mass. –- After tearing her ACL in December, Case senior pitcher Shannon Orton had an important decision to make. If she chose to undergo surgery she would not be able to compete with her teammates in her final high school season and attempt to win that elusive state championship. Orton decided to rehabilitate the injury and pitch through the pain with the support of a brace on her knee.
Her decision continued to pay off as Orton and her teammates will have another shot at the MIAA Division 3 championship on Friday as Case defeated Matignon 4-3 in the Eastern Mass. D3 championship game on Tuesday night.
“I postponed the surgery so that I could hopefully get back to another state championship,” Orton said. “We all fell short last year and I knew that this team had the potential to do it. After talking to my doctor and getting his okay I worked hard in the gym, with my pitching coach and with these girls. We all worked hard and we will have another shot at it.”
Orton and Matignon senior starting pitcher Lauren Doneski both pitched strong games as they both battled out of multiple middle-inning, bases-loaded jams to keep the game close and both of their teams alive.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the top of the sixth inning, Orton appeared to tweak her injured knee between innings as she took the mound. Orton battled through the injury and remained in the game. Despite giving up a run in the inning the senior buckled down and got out of any future trouble with a strikeout and a big defensive play from third baseman Kelsey Pacheco.
“She is tough,” Case head coach Norm Beauchemin said of Orton. “She tweaks a knee and she still comes back. She is as tough as nails and she is determined this year.”
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Case (18-7) overcame a two-run deficit to plate three runs and take a 4-3 lead. Orton led off the inning with a walk followed by singles from Mary VanLingen and Kadie Sullivan. With the bases loaded, junior shortstop Jenna Reposa ripped a base hit to left field that that eluded the leftfielder scoring all three runs.
“Even though we made some minor mistakes throughout the game we found the strength to get together and get it done,” Orton said. “We found a way to put those hits together at the end and Jenna had a great hit.”
With their first lead since the third inning Orton would rear back to strike out two batters and seal the win for Case.
“This journey has been a long journey,” Beauchemin said. “We survived today and the kids never quit. Even the games we lost during the course of the season we always had a chance to win. These girls never ever give up. They are as tough as nails, they are determined and they have a lot of confidence in each other.”
Doneski Shines: Despite Matignon’s loss Doneski had an amazing run on the mound and at the plate for the Warriors. She provided the game’s two best hits with a pair of 200 foot doubles over the head of Case’s outfielders. The first of her two doubles drove in a run and the senior also scored twice for Matignon (17-9) .
Doneski also mixed up her pitches to keep Case on their toes all night. Doneski was also involved in four putouts on the evening as she did a great job fielding her position.
Rematch: Case returns to Saturday’s state title game to face a familiar foe in Central/ Western Mass. champion Turners Falls.
Turners Falls defeated Assabet Valley 6-5 in the D3 Central/Western Mass. championship game on Tuesday night.
Turners Falls also defeated Case last season 1-0 in Worcester to claim the MIAA D3 crown. Orton threw a gem for Case but fell short to the shutout performance of Turners Falls’ hurler Emily Mailloux.
“It is really exciting,” Orton said. “We have worked real hard and stayed together as one unit the entire season. We are ready.”