D2 South final: Bellingham 1, Case 0

TAUNTON, Mass. - It was a perfect throw by Case right fielder Ellie Roberts and catcher Jenna Santerre was sitting at the plate waiting for the Bellingham runner. Megan Cook was several steps away from the plate when the ball arrived, but when she slid in the umpire took a beat and called her safe.

“I was just going hard, going hard,” said the Bellingham senior. “I don’t know. I saw that she had it and I was thinking hook slide and I just slid hard, ran hard, and he called me safe. Maybe I got under it, but he called me safe so I’m going to take it.”

Case coach Don DiBiasio could not explain how the call was made when his catcher did not appear to drop the ball.

“I honestly don’t know what he did,” said DiBiasio. “He looked for the ball, she had the ball, and he called her safe. I don’t understand the call. I feel bad for the kids because I feel that they got robbed. That was a great, great game between both teams and who knows.”

Not only did Cook score the winning run on Monday night at Jack Tripp Field, but she also made it stand up by striking out seven and retiring the final 11 hitters that she faced in order to lead Bellingham to a 1-0 win and its first Division 2 South sectional title since 2010.

“I can’t tell you anything about whether she was safe or out, I wasn’t even watching,” said Bellingham coach Dennis Baker. “Once that happened, Megan stepped up again like she has all season.”

He added, “After she scored that run, coach and I looked at each other and said that it’s over.”

Case came out swinging against the Tri-Valley League MVP, who tossed a no-hitter against Dighton-Rehoboth on Sunday in the semifinal, and had two hits in the top of the first. The Cardinals had two runners in scoring position with one out in the first, two runners on in the second, and runners on in the third and fourth innings but failed to get a run home.

That was a missed opportunity, as Cook would find a groove and the Hawks made the plays behind her to keep Case off the base paths for the final three innings.

“They showed up to the game ready to swing and hack the ball,” said Cook. “They’re aggressive. They’re a good team and they deserve to be here.”

DiBiasio said, “[Cook] settled in and we kept hitting the ball the whole game it was just a matter of they didn’t fall in. We stroked the ball well; it was just unfortunate that they didn’t drop.”

In the bottom of the fifth, Cook smacked a one-out double to right center that could have been a triple but for a great throw by Roberts from the warning track. After a strikeout, freshman Kayse Baker hit a single to right field that Roberts charged and came up throwing to the plate.

Baker admitted that he took a chance sending Cook in that situation but felt that it may be the only chance that Bellingham got.

“She probably has the best arm that I’ve seen in this tournament, but it’s just one of those things -- you’re hoping for something to happen,” he said. “We weren’t hitting the ball; they weren’t hitting the ball. It was one of those instincts and we said all along on a base hit to the outfield we’re going to send her.”

Regardless of the controversy on the play at the plate, Baker praised his freshman right fielder for coming through with the game-winning RBI.

He said, “We needed somebody to get on base and some different chemistry in our lineup. She stepped up big. She doesn’t get rattled at all…and that’s big hit.”

Case made the jump from D3 to D2 this season and continued its annual trip to the sectional finals. Despite the defeat, DiBiasio was proud of the way his team battled and expects the Cardinals will be a tough out again next season.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “The kids showed that they can play with these schools and it’s awesome -- really awesome.”

Cook had similar feelings about making it to the state semifinal game on Wednesday night, again at Jack Tripp Field, to face North sectional champion Tewksbury.

“It feels good; you’ve just got to put it all out there,” she said. “I’m just going to be ready, whenever the game is I’m just going to be ready.”