Seniors key Plymouth South's 4th straight ACL title

PLYMOUTH, Mass. -- In championship seasons, there are times when all members of a team must contribute.

Plymouth South softball’s second-inning rally Friday against Sandwich was a prime example. Trailing 1-0 after a Blue Knights homerun in the first, the bottom of Plymouth South’s order came to life with four straight hits from its No. 6-9 hitters, setting the table for a five-run outburst.

The rally was all the cushion pitcher Noelle Christmas would need as the Panthers claimed an 8-3 win to clinch the Atlantic Coast League title.

More than that, it is Plymouth South’s fourth straight league title, which is the longest such streak in program history.

“We’ve grown up and we’ve improved so much over the years,” said Christmas, who stuck out 10 while earning the win. “We can see how much we’ve improved together, as a team. We’re like a family and we’ve grown stronger together, it’s a strong family.”

Plymouth South’s five seniors — Jocelyn Bettencourt, Rebecca Jankowski, Emily Messina (2-for-3, two runs), Cayla Thomas and Christmas, who were members of each of the four title-winning teams — all had a hand in the victory.

Sophomore Kelsey Bernard started the second-inning rally, driving in the Panthers’ first two runs in the second with a one-out single. A run scored on Jankowski’s bunt base hit and then Thomas capped the inning with a two-out, two-run single to right.

“We’ve been hitting the ball well in the last four or five games,” Plymouth South head coach Tom Hicks said. “It’s nice to see contributions from different people in the order.”

Plymouth South (10-3, 9-0) got two more in the fourth on Christmas’ two-run single.

The Panthers’ hurler remained in control despite falling behind early on Megan Congro’s home run to left in the first. And Christmas was downright dominant in the fifth when she struck out the side in order.

Sandwich (11-2, 8-2) scraped across unearned runs against Christmas in the sixth and seventh, but the damage had been done.

“She’s a true competitor,” Hicks said of Christmas. “She pitched a heck of a game down at Sandwich. She lives for these games that mean the most.”

The Panthers still have two more league games at hand, but after dispatching the Blue Knights for the second time this season, they have nothing more to do than look ahead.

“The first goal we set was to make the tournament,” said Jankowski. “The second goal we set was to make to win the ACL. The next goal is to take it all the way into the tournament.

“We got close last year, but we want to surpass that this year.”