KINGSTON, Mass. – Coming into the game, Milford knew the challenge that it would face against top seed Silver Lake. The Lakers were undefeated and boasted the top player in the state in senior pitcher Maddy Barone. They had also beaten the Hawks in the regular season and in last year’s tournament.
Knowing what is coming does not always prevent it from happening.
Barone was stellar in the circle, striking out six and limiting the Hawks to just two hits and three base runners, and also went 3-for-4 at the plate with the game-winning RBI in a 5-0 victory that sends the Lakers into the Div. 1 South semifinal.
“She’s the Gatorade Player of the Year for a reason,” said Milford coach Steve DiVitto. “She’s an outstanding pitcher and outstanding player and I thought we put the bat on the ball a couple times but not in the right spots.
“You have to tip your cap to a pitcher and player like that.”
Silver Lake coach Tony Pina admitted that Barone and her battery mate, catcher Emily Critch, learned from the team’s meeting in May (the Lakers won 5-2).
He explained, “It definitely helped us in terms of knowing what to expect. Because we know their approach at the plate and have seen them before, it allows Maddy and Emily to call the game they need.”
Megan Jacques had Milford’s first hit in the second inning, but pinch runner Antonia Bonina was caught stealing to end the inning. Barone retired the next 11 hitters before allowing a two-out single to Shannon Cormier in the sixth.
Pina said, “Maddy did what we expected her to do – hit her spots and get us ground balls, fly balls. I thought her ball was moving pretty good. I thought she did a good job keeping them off-balance today.”
Milford starter Ali Atherton, who will join Barone at Southern New Hampshire in 2017, got through the first inning unscathed with help from third baseman Kaitlyn DeCapua who made a pair of excellent plays on two hard hit balls.
The second time through the lineup the Lakers did not hit it quite as hard but seemed to find some holes. With one out, three straight singles loaded the bases for Barone, who lined a two-run single into right center to get the Lakers on the board.
“The way that this turned out today was a lot like the first time we played them – a lot of dink and dunk hits there in the middle and Barone with that big two-run single,” said DiVitto. “That’s the way it goes.”
A sacrifice fly and an RBI single made it 4-0 after four innings, which was plenty for Barone but in the fifth Silver Lake added an insurance run on a fielder’s choice with runners at second and third. After a walk loaded the bases again with no outs, DiVitto made a change and brought in sophomore Kelley Reichert.
Reichert escaped the difficult situation without allowing another run. She induced a comebacker to get the lead runner and a grounder to DeCapua at third to again force the runner at the plate and then a line drive to Emily Piergustavo at short to end the inning.
Milford finally put together something at the plate in the top of the seventh. Piergutavo led off with an infield single and Jess Tomaso drew a walk to get the Hawks a runner in scoring position for the only time in the game.
Barone bore down and struck out Maggie Farrell, got a line drive from DeCapua and then a grounder from Jacques that shortstop Caroline Videtto fielded in the hole and managed to scoop to third to force Piergustavo and end the game.
“I know our girls came out today and put forth a great effort,” said DiVitto. “I’m really proud of what they accomplished this season.
“I’m never satisfied and I know they feel the same way. I told them that remember that taste in your mouth and that feeling in your gut and let it fuel you moving forward.”
There is plenty of optimism around the program, as the Hawks will bring back 14 of 16 players from this year’s roster and will be one of the few top teams in Div. 1 South that will bring back two starting pitchers.
“But you can’t overestimate the seniors (Jill Powers and Megan Jacques) that we’re going to lose,” said DiVitto. “I know it’s only two but sometimes it’s quality not quantity. Those are going to be two very tough seniors to replace.”
He added, “We’re going to try and reload and come back even stronger next year.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.