Team: Milford Softball
2013 Davenport Division Champions
2013 Division 1 State Champions
Coming off a perfect season and a state championship the previous spring, the 2013 Milford softball team faced a new set of challenges. Not only were the Hawks facing the difficult task of trying to repeat while having a giant target on their backs, but were also trying to navigate the unfamiliar waters of the Hockomock League and the South sectional.
Led by its five seniors, Milford lived up to its preseason hype. Refocused by a midseason loss that ended their win streak at 35 games, the Hawks closed the season with 16 straight wins and sealed back-to-back titles with a 1-0 win over Amherst in the state title game.
“These seniors really from freshman year on, to see their growth not only as players but leaders and girls that set an atmosphere, set an expectation that others were going to follow,” said then head coach Brian Macchi about his senior class. “From losing a state championship game to losing a state semifinal to finally winning it and then wanting to go out and do it again, they weren’t going to settle for anything less.”
Once a team has reached the pinnacle and lifted the state championship trophy, it can be hard to come back the next season with the same focus and determination, but the Hawks faced a new challenge in 2013 that kept them motivated. That spring was Milford’s first in the Hockomock League.
Macchi explained, “It made it easy for me as a coach to motivate because you had that storyline of entering a new conference and the league we’re entering is the league you want to be in when you’re talking about softball in Massachusetts.”
Shannon Smith, the team’s standout senior pitcher, added, “We were just trying to take things one day at a time and one moment at a time because there was a lot of hype. There was a lot of new stuff, entering a new conference, but with a lot of the same girls we felt like we could do some good things again.”
Having Smith in the circle certainly gave the Hawks an edge, no matter what league they were playing in. The three-time Gatorade Player of the Year set a new state record for strikeouts that season, recording the 1,120th strikeout of her career in the next to last game of the regular season and ending with 1,216 for her career. She finished with 358 strikeouts that season and an ERA of 0.04. That is not a typo.
“She just exemplifies everything you want in a player and a teammate,” said Sam Bonvino, a junior first baseman on the 2013 team. “She was the first to cheer you on, always the first to make you happy and lift up the spirits of the team, and she was always the first to buckle down and get us back on track. When she stepped on that mound and she was ready to pitch, it all just fell into place. It was incredible to watch her drive and her passion.”
Macchi added, “To have a player like that and a pitcher like that you know going into every game, no matter who you’re playing, you’ve got a chance to win. That is an outstanding feeling to have.”
The Hawks were rolling at the start of the season, winning their first 10 games, but the dream of a second straight perfect season came to an end with a visit from North Attleboro. Despite a 17-strikeout, one-hitter from Smith, the Rocketeers were able to scratch out a run in the 10th inning and throw out a runner at the plate in the bottom half of the inning to escape to pull out a 1-0 win.
“I think it was a big reminder that it’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbow but we have to put in the work,” said Smith. Bonvino noted, “I think that loss was kind of like a wake up call. We were devastated because it would’ve been pretty cool to go back-to-back undefeated but it showed to us that we can lose, we can bounce back, and pick right up where we left off.”
Macchi said that the team started the next day’s practice with a talk about the loss and how to move forward. Whatever was said in that conversation worked, as Milford softball won 10 straight to head into the playoffs as the second seed. That set up a quarterfinal with King Philip, a rematch of the 2010 state title game and a matchup between the teams that had won the last three state titles.
“The KP games, every time, no matter if it was the regular season, the playoffs, state title game, the atmosphere and the competitiveness between both teams was outstanding,” said Macchi. “It was just so fun to be a part of, and the girls absolutely loved it.”
It was a pitcher’s duel between Smith and KP’s Anna O’Neill and, fittingly for two of the top programs in the state, the game went into extra innings. In the bottom of the ninth, Lauren Hanna bunted for a single and Smith followed with a hit. A wild pitch moved the runners up and KP intentionally walked cleanup hitter Caroline Fairbanks. Senior Rachel Levine singled to left center setting off a wild celebration that included Macchi charging out to second base to lift up Levine.
“We were both so into it and it was like a state title game because we both had a lot riding on that game, not just the loss or the win but proving to each other that we’re really good teams,” said Bonvino.
Milford softball completed its run through the South by outsourcing Franklin and Bridgewater-Raynham 13-0. “Realizing the names and the teams that were in that bracket was a huge accomplishment but at the same time this group wasn’t ready to settle,” Macchi said. “That was more motivation to finish it off and finish up those last two games the way they wanted to.”
For the second year in a row, the Hawks needed only one run to seal the state title. Smith struck out 13, finishing her career with another shutout. She said, “You want the ball in those situations. A lot of pitchers who are competitive would love that situation. Just go for it and do whatever you can to win.”
With all the attention on the upperclassmen, it was freshman Jill Powers that provided the decisive hit, driving in sophomore Allie Piergustavo with a two-out double in the sixth inning. Smith struck out the side in the seventh and Milford softball was back on top.
“It’s very fulfilling because you see people practice year round and not get to that final game and not fully get to see what it’s made of,” said Bonvino. “To be able to do it twice and be able to feel the love and the gratitude and how amazing it is to be back there again, even just to stand on the field at the end and think about the games you’ve played to get to that point is really cool.”
Macchi said, “Getting to that day and winning that game, the smiles on their faces, it was just an outstanding feeling for me as a coach and something I’ll never forget. They had that moment realizing that, as they were running out to get the state championship trophy, the story for them in their high school careers was ending on such an unbelievable high.”
|King Philip||W, 3-0 (Recap)|
|Coyle & Cassidy||W, 4-0|
|Oliver Ames||W, 7-0|
|North Attleboro||L, 1-0 (10 inn.) (Recap)|
|Franklin||W, 1-0 (Recap)|
|Oliver Ames||W, 12-0|
|Marlborough||W, 2-0 (Recap)|
|#18 Dartmouth||W, 7-0|
|#7 King Philip||W, 1-0 (9 inn.) (Recap)|
|#11 Franklin||W, 6-0 (Recap)|
|#1 Bridgewater-Raynham||W, 7-0|
|Central Catholic (State Semifinals)||W, 3-0|
|Agawam (State Final)||W, 1-0 (Recap)|