D2 softball: Bellingham 3, Grafton 1 (8 inn.)

WORCESTER, Mass. -- You started to wonder if there was a team out there who could give Grafton a run for its money.

The Indians, two-time defending Division 2 state champions, hadn't experienced the taste of defeat in 36 straight games. Up next to give it their best shot was South champion Bellingham.

With the Division 2 state final serving as the backdrop, the Blackhawks were new to this type of stage -- having never reached the final before.

Bellingham (25-1) certainly did not look the part as new kids on the block. Needing an extra inning to decide matters, junior Chloe Woodward smashed a two-out, two run double in the top of the eighth inning to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 victory Saturday at Rockwood Field.

"I don't even remember what the pitch was," said Woodward, who hit a Kendal Roy change-up for the game-winner. "She struck me out two times prior and I wasn't going to let it happen again. It was a big hit for the game but without my teammates behind me none of this would've happened."

As it is accustomed, Grafton (24-1) didn't got down without a fight. The Indians threatened in the bottom of the frame as they put two runners on with none out, But pitcher Megan Cook got out of the fray with a pair of strikeouts and Katherine Cardoza was thrown out at the plate by second baseman Alice Felzmann to end the game.

"It goes with the territory," Indians coach John Gemme said. "Not everybody wins all the time. The girls battled to the end and that's all you can ask and hope for. The hard thing is to get here and then when you do, someone ends up being on the short end of it. It happens."

Grafton jumped ahead 1-0 lead in the third. Meaghan Sawtelle opened with a single, took second on an error and advanced to third on a sacrifice. To the surprise to everyone, Cardoza laid down a squeeze bunt that scored Sawtelle.

In most cases, a one-run lead for such a dominant pitcher as Roy would be pretty safe. But not on this day. Roy, who allowed seven hits and struck out 10, had to tightrope her way out of problems in several times. In Bellingham's half of the fifth she wasn't as fortunate when the Blackhawks tied it.

Julianne Kilduff's one out single got things started. After taking second on a sacrifice bunt, the junior scored moments later when Felzmann flied a soft single to left which left fielder Makayla Ritzie slipped in her pursuit of the ball watching it land just in front of her.

The Blackhawks looked to take the lead in the sixth when they had two runners on and nobody out. But Roy, who moves on to Assumption College, managed to bear down and retire the next three batters to escape damage. Things stayed that way until the deciding eighth for Bellingham.

"To move forward in the postseason tournament you need good pitching, good defense and timely hitting," Blackhawks head coach Dennis Baker. "I think we had all of that today. Chloe came up with that big hit and Megan has the confidence within herself to get the outs when she needs to.

“We were concerned about [Roy] the whole time we had prepared for her. Grafton has a solid team and are well-coached. Roy is a competitor but I don't think there is much difference between her and Megan. I'd take either one of them on my team any day."

Cook finished by allowing six hits and picking up 10 strikeouts. She will attend Merrimack College next season.

"[Roy] is a great pitcher for them,'' said Cook. "It was a great game both ways for both teams. I just needed to come in confident and aggressive to get the job done. Fortunately I was able to do that. This wasn't a game where you could take any pitch off which is something I never do anyways. Chloe's hit was certainly a big relief for us in that eighth inning."