LOWELL, Mass. -- The first two regular season meetings between Middlesex League powers Burlington and Reading ended with each team winning on their home turf.
It was only fitting that the rubber match between the two teams take place in the Division 2 North sectional final on a neutral Martin Field Monday night.
This time, Burlington, behind a complete game effort from senior Courtney Lanfranchi, defeated Reading 3-2 in another close battle between the two schools.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game,” Lanfranchi said. “It was our third time playing them this year and they are real good team. I knew we had to get that clutch hit or clutch run.”
The Red Devils (22-2) struck first in the bottom of the first inning as junior shortstop Christina Raso smashed a lead-off double over the head of Reading right fielder Victoria Marino. After a sacrifice bunt by senior captain Stacey Hezreh, Burlington third baseman Haley Currie would drive in Raso with a deep infield single in the hole.
The Rockets would tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the third as junior Morgan Fallon would reach on a fielder’s choice, steal second and score on a throwing error.
The Red Devils would answer right back in the bottom of the third as Raso led off the inning again with a single and later score on an error, giving the Red Devils a 2-1 lead after three innings.
Reading would tie the back-and-forth affair in the fourth inning as second baseman Meg Kelly ripped a double in the left-center field gap and would score on a single by catcher Nicole Nelson.
With the score tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning and runners on second and third, freshman Kayla Sheldon hit a sacrifice fly to plate the eventual winning run.
The Red Devils played superb defense behind Lanfranchi, led by catcher Jillian Mazure, who gunned down a would-be base-stealer in the third inning and picked off another base runner with a rifle throw down to first in the sixth.
“Believe it or not she [Mazure] had never played catcher before this year,” Red Devils head coach Kristen Mahoney said. “This year we needed a catcher and she said, coach I will do it. She has been phenomenal and one of the best catchers we have seen so far.”
“She played every position for us and I could not be more proud of her,” echoed Lanfranchi. “I think we have had the best defense in the North this year. I know I am not a strikeout pitcher so I have to rely on my defense and they helped me out.”
The Division 2 North title is the first for the Red Devil program.
“The girls worked so hard for this,” said Mahoney. “They are the best group of girls and they deserve this.”
Burlington, who has not lost since April 27, will face Division 2 South sectional champion Hopkinton (22-2) Wednesday night at Martin field in Lowell. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.