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LHS notches dramatic first win

April 29, 2009
LITTLETON—After Brianna Ash slid safely into home plate for the game-winning run and the celebration ceased last Monday, nobody at the Apthrop Common softball field felt more liberated than Littleton coach Crystal Martin.

How relieved was she?

"More than you know. More than you know," Martin cracked following the Crusaders' tense 9-8 victory over the visiting Moultonborough Panthers.

In the bottom of the seventh inning with the scored knotted at eight, Ash sped home from second base following Alyssa Bailly's bunt single. Her clever base running lifted the hosts to their first win of the season, an anxious campaign marred thus far by an uninspired offense and three losses by four runs combined.

"It certainly was a must-win game," Martin said. "I wouldn't even want to guess where our emotions would be running if we lost this one."

Littleton's season had started far from expected. It began with a 7-6 home loss in 12 innings to Woodsville, followed by a 1-0 defeat to Lisbon and a 2-0 failure at Groveton. In the latter two, the Crusaders tallied just two hits.

"It's really hard to start out 0-3," Martin said. "The girls were feeling the pressure. They were getting more nervous because they weren't hitting and they know that they can."

And they did last Monday, as Littleton recorded 11 hits in the contest and built a 7-1 lead through four innings, including a four-run uprising in the fourth.

"This is the first game we've hit really well," Martin said. "We have been working relentlessly on our hitting. We actually videotaped the girls yesterday and broke down each of their swings. It's just confidence. I told them once we start hitting it's going to be contagious, and it was."

But the Crusaders nearly had an epic meltdown. Moultonborough, after being quieted by LHS starter Meghan Gadapee for the first 12 outs of the ballgame, nabbed three runs each in the fifth and sixth innings (the Crusaders got one back in the fifth) that narrowed the margin to 8-7.

"This was an intense game," Martin conceded. "Moultonborough really put the pressure on us. They're a good team and well-coached. It was a good test."

A good test that got quite testy in the final frame. Bailly, who was slated to start the game but arrived late, took the circle in the top of the seventh clinging to a one-run lead.

Moultonborough's Alexis Page led off the inning with a walk and scored after an error and a bunt single to tie the game at eight. But with two runners in scoring position, Bailly struck out the next two batters, then induced a groundout to second base, a play in which Moultonborough's leadoff hitter nearly beat the throw to first.

"It was hard to come into that situation with all that pressure, but I had a strong defense behind me and were able to get the outs after they tied the game. So, that had us feeling good. We were all pumped up in the dugout," Bailly said.

In their half of the inning, the Crusaders produced their own drama. Ash led off with a walk and after stealing second, Amelia Armstrong followed with a base on balls that put runners on first and second with nobody out. That set the stage for Bailly, who in her first at-bat of the game, calmly laid down a flawless bunt that trickled back to the pitcher. The throw was late to first, but Ash didn't blink on the base paths. She rounded second and slid safely into home, albeit with a late throw to the plate.

"Alyssa's a great bunter. I just wanted her to get those girls on second and third so that Kirin (Schrum) could have a shot," Martin explained. "Kirin was hitting the ball great today. But it turned out much better that I could have ever expected."

Said Bailly: "I didn't expect to be safe at first. I was just trying to move the runners. After I bunted it, I didn't even know where the ball was and then Brianna scored."

Gadapee struck out three Moultonborough hitters and added two hits and two runs, while Schrum added a triple among her two hits. Armstrong and Ash also scored twice for Littleton, which rallied to beat Profile 8-4 last Wednesday and was scheduled to visit White Mountains Regional on Monday.

"It feels really good to get this first win," Bailly said.

Woodsville 10, Blue Mtn. (Vt.) 5

Katie Davis had 11 strikeouts and the Woodsville Engineers tallied five unanswered runs over the final two innings to down cross-river rival Blue Mountain Union (Vt.) last Monday.

The Engineers, who notched nine hits off BMU starter Ashley Rood, scored twice in the sixth inning and three in the seventh to push their record to 2-1 on the season. Rood, who finished with eight strikeouts, had pitched a no-hitter and a one-hitter prior to this contest.

Alex Graham and Elizabeth Marshall had two hits apiece for Woodsville, which made just one error to Blue Mountain's six. Nichole Zambone had two of BMU's six hits.

Martin Lord and Osman
Salmon Press
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