MILFORD, Mass. -- It was only fitting for Milford ace Shannon Smith to finish her season face-to-face with Colonials' starter Sarah Ropiak.
Dominating all year for their respective state softball semi-finalist teams, the Scarlet Hawks hurler started and finished her schedule scraping for a win against A-B's top senior. As was the case in their season opener, the junior again grabbed a slim one-run tilt for top-seeded Milford (20-0) with a 3-2 triumph over guest No. 11 Acton-Boxboro (12-5) on Thursday.
“Being behind [is] something that has not happened too us much this season,” Milford head coach Brain Macchi said. “Shannon threw some pitches that were important for us to get out of jams. She is putting in the work during the offseason (and) coming in physically and mentally strong.”
Smith tossed eight strikeouts for Milford, while Ropiak finished two hitters. The Colonials' senior allowed two additional smacks, with 10 hits and one walk.
BATTLING AT THE PLATE
Macchi looked for aggressive at-bats from his girls, but has preached all season the importance of pumping up the pitch count.
A lofted center field triple by sophomore Sam Bonvino brought home teammate senior Lindsey Read from first for the winner in the fourth, while a frozen rope by junior Carolyn Fairbanks dropped through the glove of leaping center fielder Lindsey Chen to score the first run for the Mid-Wach A Conference champs.
After forcing 28 pitches in the second, a foul-line dribbler by junior Rachel Levine knocked in Fairbanks from second for a 2-2 tie in the third.
“From day one of the season, we talked about having the pitcher work and work and work,” Macchi said. “Sarah Ropiak is a great pitcher and she is going to be around the strike zone. We are trying to put the ball in play and make their team make plays.”
Fairbanks went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI, while Levine also banged out a 2-for-3 day with one RBI.
The Dual County (Large) leaders lost their previous matchup 1-0 at home off a wild pitch. Allowing 17 strikeouts in their last battle, coach Mary Matthews looked for stronger at bats in the rematch.
Facing a one run hole, Ropiak finished A-B's fourth straight single to open the third with a blooper for an RBI along the first-base line.
The Colonials pulled ahead off a fielder's choice rip by Lindsey Chen in their following at-bat.
“We accomplished the goals we wanted to accomplish [to] not to give up an unearned run, not to fall apart after something goes wrong, and
to have quality at bats,” Matthews said. “Last time we played them [Smith] just mowed us down. Bunt if you have to [or] slap if you have,
but fight, fight, fight just so you have a chance.”
Maddie Hatch and Kirstin Pfister (one run) led A-B, going 3-for-4.
PAINTING THE CORNERS
Smith has won 19 of Milford's 20 games this season, including her eighth no-hitter yesterday in a 2-0 blanking of Leominster. The junior did not avoid hits this afternoon, but looked to work the corners and limit deep knocks.
Smith allowed only singles with nine Colonial hits.
“A lot of the hits where they scored runs were little bloopers,” Smith said. “Stuff they were getting off the end of the bat. Keep hitting the corners so they can not hit anything too deep and go yard.”