WORCESTER, Mass. -- A year ago, Holy Name, like most everyone else for that matter, had their postseason aspirations dashed against eventual Division 1 state champion Milford in the Central Mass. championship game. Had the Scarlet Hawks opted to jettison to Eastern Mass. last season instead of this year, it is a safe presumption the talented Naps might have been the ones hoisting the Central Mass. plaque that evening in Hudson.
With the disappointment of last year safely shelved away, Holy Name, the top seed in this year's tournament, was back hoping to make amends. On Tuesday night, at Worcester State University's Rockwood Field, they began that quest but it ended with a loud thud.
No. 5 Shepherd Hill had its offense clicking as it churned out 11 hits to claim a 6-3 upset victory. The Rams (15-7) will face Marlborough in the CMass. title game to be played at WSC Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Trailing 3-2, the upstart Rams sent eight players to the plate in the fifth inning against Naps hard-thowing right-hander Kelsey Saucier, who came in an 11-1 record and 0.97 ERA. With one out, junior Shelby Stracher tied the game with a solo home run off the left field scoreboard. Moments later, the lights went out around the park due to the fact they are set on a timer that expires at 10 p.m. After a 15 minute delay, power was finally restored. So too were the Rams bats.
The inning continued with Emily Hanson, Emily Reynolds and Megan Gosselin all reaching base with singles. A Kelsey Mosher bunt single put Shepherd Hill in front 4-3. Emily Bagley followed that up by launching an RBI double to right putting the Rams ahead by a pair. They would plate their sixth run in the seventh on a bases loaded SAC fly by Gosselin.
"We really didn't expect to get this far," said Stracher, who also made several defensive gems from her catching position. "We lost a whole core of seniors from last year. But we got hot at the right time and won our last three games of our regular season. It's been great so far."
Holy Name (18-2) appeared out of sync defensively from the outset. Uncharacteristically, the Naps committed seven errors. But in spite of that, they still were able to maintain a one run lead through four frames thanks to Jill Kilcoyne's RBI single in the fourth to put them ahead. From an offensive standpoint, however, that would be the end of it for Holy Name. Rams junior pitcher Brenna Foley (CG, 9 hits, 1 K), although not overpowering, still managed to keep the Naps off-balanced for the remainder of this contest.
"I thought we were the better team coming in but we just didn't play our best game tonight," Naps coach Aimee Lee said. "We hit the ball well but we didn't capitalize on anything. We also made probably the most errors in one game than we did all season. When you don't play good defense you don't win games."
Down 1-0, Holy Name tied this affair in its half of the second. Lauren Merritt singled. Danielle Rocheleau followed with a single and Merritt sprinted home following Heather Drummond's ground single up the middle.
The Rams move in front first in their opening frame. Kathleen Polselli roped a two-out double to left. After stealing third, the junior crossed the plate on Emily Hanson's infield single. But in the bottom of the inning, the Naps tied things at 2-2 on Saucier's SAC fly before taking their brief lead in the fourth.
"We've had trouble in the past against (Saucier)," Stracher said. "She's such a great pitcher. But we just seemed to be on tonight with our bats. Our mentality is if you go up to the plate confident then no one can beat you."
Marlborough 4, Nashoba Regional 0
The way this contest was playing out, either a timely hit or a mistake was going to make the difference.
For the Marlborough Panthers, they were the beneficiaries of both after things fell apart for Nashoba Regional in the 11th inning.
Both Marlborough and the Chieftains were locked into an epic, scoreless battle through 10 innings in their Central Mass. Division 1 semifinal tilt.
One frame that all changed. The third-seeded Panthers scored four times to prevail 4-0. Marlborough (16-6) moves to Saturday's CMass. final against No. 5 Shepherd Hill. The second-seeded Chieftains finish their season at 16-6.
With Marlborough pitcher Molly McGuire and Nashoba righty Emily Sargent piling up zeros on the scoreboard, the result was little offense displayed from both sides.
McGuire, a senior, allowed five hits and struck out 13. Only a junior, Sargent surrendered 8 hits and punched out 16.
"We knew every inning we needed to play solid defense or (Nashoba) would win this game," Panthers coach Kyle Westcott said. "The girls hung in there and Molly pitched a great game. Sargent pitched a great game as well. I'm just glad we came out on top."
Erin Coughlin led the decisive inning off by doubling to straightaway center. A passed ball moved the junior to third. After a walk, Chaley Webber hit a fly ball to left that was dropped by left fielder Kelly Young which allowed Coughlin to score easily. A single by McGuire then loaded the bases. Victoria Falco next rifled an opposite-field triple to right, clearing the bases and giving the Panthers their four-run cushion en route to the triumph.
"I couldn't have done that without the support of my team," said Falco, a sophomore. "At that point I knew we needed to get some insurance runs and fortunately we did. We came into this game confident but we didn't want to come in over-confident."
Both teams split games during the regular season and the tie-breaker certainly lived up to expectations and will be discussed around these parts for some time.
"It was a great game," said Chieftains coach Steve Kendall. "We had some chances but Marlboro made the plays. Both pitchers were great. They ended up coming up with a couple of big plays on offense in the end."
Combined, both clubs stranded a small village on the base paths. Through 10 innings, Marlboro left nine on, including the bases full in the fifth inning. The Chieftains stranded 10 with the bases juiced in the third.
Assabet Valley 2, Murdock 1
Defending Division 3 Central Mass. champ Assabet Valley scored a pair of runs early and proceeded to hold off a late charge from top-seed Murdock to claim a 2-1 victory in the day's first game of this triple header.
The fourth-seeded Aztecs (18-4) grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a Jen Casavant RBI single. They went up by two the following frame. Morgan Parmeter walked and was pinch ran for by Rebecca Cordeiro. A passed ball moved Cordeiro to second. She came around to score moments later after the Blue Devils (19-3) committed an error on Kayla Baker's bunt, throwing the ball into right field. Murdock finally got on the board in the sixth on a Jessa Pereira run-scoring double. But winning pitcher Madison Parmeter (4 hits, 9 Ks) got out of the frame without further damage.
The Blue Devils went down quietly in the seventh.
Assabet returns to the CMass. final where it will meet the winner of Wednesday's Hopedale/Quaboag winner on Saturday here beginning at noon.