WORCESTER, Mass. -- It's starting to become old hat with the Grafton Indians. After out-lasting Hampshire Regional 2-0 in Wednesday's Division 2 state semifinal, Grafton will be vying for a third consecutive state championship. The Indians (24-0) take on Bellingham (24-1) Saturday here starting at 4 p.m.
Behind the brilliant performance of star pitcher Kendal Roy, the Indians were able to score a couple of unearned runs and keep the Red Raiders (19-4) at bay. Roy, who will attend Assumption College next fall, allowed four hits and fanned 10. Roy is 2-0 lifetime versus Hampshire, having defeated them in the 2012 state semifinal.
"Their pitcher was strong and their defense was strong and they have a few good hitters," said Roy. "But I think today we got the benefit of the doubt. We have a lot of young players on this team but when you think about Grafton softball you think of a team that is always in it and that's how we go throughout the whole season. It's not so much we expect to win but it's like we don't expect to lose. We don't go into games thinking we might lose but we're certainly not going in think we've got this game either."
Amazingly, the Indians have now won 36 straight games dating back to last year.
After the Red Raiders loaded the bases in the top half of the third only to come away empty, The Indians answered with a run in the bottom of the frame. A lead-off double by Meaghan Sawtelle. As expected, Shelbe Turpin laid down a SAC bunt. But on the play, third baseman Danielle McGan threw wildly to first which allowed Sawtelle to come home. While Hampshire stranded seven runners on base for the game, Grafton took advantage of its limited opportunities. In the first inning, Savannah Waters started the game off with a triple but was left stranded after Roy managed to escape the inning. That seemed to be the way things went all day for frustrated Red Raiders head coach Brian McGan.
"Savannah gets that triple and the door is open for us but we just couldn't knock it down," McGan said. "I told our girls we've faced a very good pitcher so you tip your hat to her. It's part of the game. Good pitching sometimes shuts down good hitting and when (Roy) had to come up big she did."
In the sixth, Roy opened by ripping a single off of pitcher Alexis Ferris (4 hits, 6 Ks). Michelle Goulet laid down a bunt towards McGan and once again, the freshman threw the ball away which plated pinch-runner Kendall Leofanti. McGan was playing with a sore right hand. In the previous inning, she swung at a pitch with her hand making more contact with the ball than the bat did. She opted to stay in the game.
As a result, with the way Roy was dealing, two runs would be enough for Grafton to move onto the finals and attempt to win its third crown.
"This team just constantly finds ways to win," Indians head coach John Gemme said. "Either a great defensive play, a timely hit or even a bunt that results in a mistake by the other team. The girls have been great they don't get flustered and played very poised today against a very good team."