GRAFTON, Mass. -- During the top of the sixth inning, and her team locked in a tight-fisted 1-1 duel against Division 1 foe Holy Name, Grafton ace pitcher Kendal Roy began to sing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” from inside her dugout. Her teammates quickly caught on and followed her lead. Suddenly a chorus of this famous song resonated all over Nelson Field.
This is the demeanor of the Indians. They play relaxed, are never uptight and have a great time playing the game they love. This off-beat conduct certainly has paid dividends for Grafton in the past. Last year, they won the Division 2 state championship boosted by the same mannerisms. On Wednesday, this personality helped carry them again as the Indians erupted for seven runs in the sixth to claim an 8-5 victory over the Naps.
“To us a 1-1 game is definitely different than losing 1-0,” said Roy, who allowed six hits while striking out nine which gives her 59 for the season. “When we tied it, 1-1, we all looked at it as if it was a 0-0 game. Once we tied it we knew we were doing fine.”
Holy Name hurler Kelsey Saucier (7 hits, 9 walks, 8 Ks) was in control early, holding the Indians to a single run through five innings. But things unraveled quickly for her in the decisive inning. The junior had lost command of her blazing fastball, as many pitches were starting to finish high above the strike zone.
Saucier opened the inning by plunking Tara FaFord, walking Michelle Goulet and allowing Marissa Ruggiero to reach safely on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. With the pressure on, Saucier threw a belt-high fastball to Tess Fitzmaurice, who roped a three-run triple to center making the score 4-1. Makayla Ritzie followed by lining a double to left scoring Fitzmaurice. Ritzie would later score on a fielder’s choice putting the Indians ahead 6-1. Two more Saucier walks resulted in two more runs on RBI singles from Roy and FaFord.
“It’s the beginning of the season and we’re not quite in shape yet,” Naps coach Aimee Lee said. “I think that was a main factor today and once they started getting hits we started getting that feeling of being defeated.”
That feeling didn’t resonate for to long. Holy Name (2-1) made a valiant comeback attempt in the bottom of the sixth. A pair of Grafton errors led to two runs making it an 8-3 contest. The Naps closed to within three run following RBI by Heather Drummond and Deanna DiPilato.
But Roy bore down from there allowing no further damage.
“I owe this entire game to my team,” added Roy, her team now 5-0. “We got some huge hits when we needed them and it really boosted our confidence and energy. These are the types of games that push us to be as good as we can be. Holy Name is a great team and we knew going in it would be a great game. These are the games that make us a better team.”
The Naps grabbed a 1-0 lead in the opening frame when Ana Biney (3 hits) scored from second on a two-out single by Saucier. Holy Name had a couple of opportunities to add to its total in the early going but a couple of web gems from center fielder Kate Cardoza kept it a one run game.
Grafton eventually tied things in the fifth. Ritzie, the No. 9 hitter, led off with a single, stole second and took third on a pass ball. The junior came home moments later on a Saucier wild pitch.
“Everything seemed to come together for us in that sixth inning,” Grafton coach John Gemme said. “But even before that Kate [Cardoza] made some great plays in center field for us which, if she hadn’t, could’ve changed the complexion of this game [Ritzie] has been working really hard at getting her swing more compact and today it showed with her getting a couple of hits. For Tess [Fitzmaurice], getting that triple was huge. It was her first hit of the year and came at a good time. She has been working very hard on her hitting and it certainly paid off today.”