STOUGHTON, Mass. – With all-star third baseman Karly Estremera, one of the Stoughton’s leading hitters, sidelined with an injury, sophomore Julia Driscoll took over the starting role for Saturday morning’s playoff opener against Somerset-Berkley. She would walk off the field a hero.
In a tie game in the bottom of the seventh inning, Driscoll, batting in the eighth spot, drilled a lead-off double to left. It was only the fifth hit that the Black Knights had managed off of Raiders starter Laney Martin. After a pair of strikeouts, Jordan Lyons hit one off the end of the bat down the first base line. The backspin took it away from the first baseman and Lyons hustled to the bag to keep the inning alive.
The very next pitch skipped by the Somerset-Berkley catcher and made its way to the backstop as Driscoll scampered home with the winning run and was mobbed by her teammates. With the 2-1, walk-off victory Stoughton will travel to face Walpole in the D1 South first round.
“It’s what we talked about yesterday is that the beauty of this roster is that we have depth and somebody is going to step up every day and today was Julia’s day,” said Stoughton coach Deb Parker. Parker was also celebrating her birthday on Saturday and appreciated the gift of a win from her team. She joked, “It was the only thing I wanted today.”
Parker also praised the play that Lyons made to keep running on the awkward play for the first baseman and allow the inning to continue with Driscoll at third. She said, “That’s one of the things we stress with these girls is that every ball is in play until someone says you’re out and Jordan’s all hustle all the time.”
It was a pitcher’s duel from the start. Sophomore Nicole Baker and Martin combined to allow three base runners and one hit through the opening three innings of the game. Both pitchers struck out four over the first two innings, while Martin struck out the side in the third. Stoughton ended the third with a double play, as Sydney Menz grabbed a line drive in right and doubled up the runner on first.
The second time through the order was a little more difficult. In the fourth, the visitors nearly broke the deadlock, but with runners at first and second and two outs, Lyons chased down a bloop by the line in shallow left. The shortstop stretched to get to the ball and stayed with it when it popped off her glove, eventually corralling it on the slide.
During the fourth inning Baker took a liner off her ankle that had the Black Knights worried, but she recovered and ended up throwing a complete game. Parker explained, “We just needed her to work on her breathing and we wouldn’t give her mask or her glove back until she could breathe and then she wants the ball every pitch and we’re going to give it to her.”
After making a great play in the field, Lyons led off the bottom half of the inning and reached on an error. A sacrifice bunt by catcher Bri Ferrandiz moved Lyons into scoring position for Lexi Baptista, who drilled a double to right center (Stoughton’s first hit of the game) and brought in Lyons for the game’s first run.
Nikki Coppola singled as well, but Martin was able escape the jam by snaring a comebacker from Baker and then recording her eighth strikeout of the game.
The Raiders came right back and got their first run in the top of the fifth, with some help from the Stoughton defense that was otherwise outstanding. A lead-off walk and a sac bunt moved a runner into scoring position, but Baptista took a one-hop single to center and gunned down the lead runner at third, with Driscoll applying the tag.
“I think defense is one of the things we do best,” Parker said. “Nicole is a great pitcher but she also knows that she has eight people on the field with her that will get it done behind her.”
The next batter hit a hard shot up the middle that Baker knocked down, but her throw to first got away and skipped up the right field fence. The runner came all the way around from first and, after a delay at third, raced home to score the tying run. Somerset-Berkley were fortunate that the throw back into the infield dropped because that delay at third could have cost them the run.
Stoughton got two on in the bottom of the inning but Martin got out of the jam with an infield pop-up. Baker threw a perfect sixth and nearly helped her own cause with a two-out double in the bottom half, but again Martin was able to pitch out of the jam. In the top of the seventh, Baker was perfect again, with help from Baptista chasing down a liner in left center, and finished with her fifth strikeout.
Stoughton (15-6) will try to carry the momentum from its dramatic win into Sunday’s game at No. 5 seed Walpole.
“I think it’s great,” said Parker, “especially to battle the way that these guys did. They know there’s nothing they can’t do now.”