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Woodsville delivers in clutch

May 20, 2009
WOODSVILLE—Two one-run games proves there isn't much difference in talent this season between the Woodsville Engineers and the Littleton Crusaders. The distance between the two schools in the Class S standings, however, can be more defined in other numbers.

With a 4-3 victory last Monday for its second one-run victory over Littleton this year, Woodsville moved to 9-1 and pushed its winning streak to eight. The Crusaders, on the other hand, fell to 5-6 and have yet to piece together more than two wins in a row.

"I've been on teams where we've gone 3-14 and lose by a run eight times, but these kids just know we're going to get the runs and we managed to do it today," said Engineer co-head coach Glenn Hatch, whose team moved to 4-1 in contests decided by one score. "Good teams win those games and we're a good team."

Littleton coach Crystal Martin, whose team fell to 2-3 in one-run affairs, offered her view: "We're two plays away from being a great team."

The big difference, perhaps, lies in experience. Both squads reached the semifinals a season ago—Woodsville in Class S and LHS in Class M (now in Class S)—but the Engineers have nearly all their players back. Littleton has new players in new positions and is still battling a learning curve. The disparity was evident last Monday as the two schools went toe-to-toe for the second time this season.

Using starter Katie Davis' erratic, no-hit effort, WHS rallied from a 3-1 deficit on its home turf before breaking a 3-all tie with two clutch hits in the bottom of the sixth. Junior Cassie Manning led off with an opposite field double to the right-center field fence. After advancing to third on Katie Hilliard's sacrifice bunt, senior Elizabeth Marshall roped the eventual game-winning single into left field off losing pitcher Meghan Gadapee.

"That was huge. We needed big hits and it was a junior and a senior that got it done," Hatch said.

But the Engineer win didn't come without a few tense moments, as Littleton had plenty of opportunities to get over the .500 mark for the first time this season.

The pivotal moment played out in the top of the sixth after Littleton's Ashley Hayward advanced to third with the aid of a Woodsville miscue, Alyssa Bailly's sacrifice bunt and a groundout. With Taylor Glidden at bat and two outs, Hayward tried to race home on a wild pitch for the go-ahead score, but was tagged out by Davis in a bang-bang play at the plate.

Earlier, Littleton produced a run in each of the first three innings, albeit without a hit. The Crusaders touched home on a bases-loaded wild pitch in the first, a bases-loaded walk in the second and Bailly's RBI sacrifice bunt in the third that scored pinch-runner Julia Winn. But the visitors missed a golden chance to add a second run in the first frame as Woodsville third baseman Morgan Maerder threw out Amelia Armstrong at the plate to quell the uprising.

Woodsville produced a run in the second and added two more in the fourth, thanks to another game-changing Littleton miscue. After Hilliard singled with one out, Marshall, the lone player with two hits in the game, tagged a single to right field. The throw to third, however, went high and allowed Hilliard to score and Marshall to advance to third. Marshall then touched home for the trying run on Ashley Griswald's groundout.

"Twice we were thrown out at the plate and we had a two-run throwing error from right field. That was the difference in the game," said Martin. "But every play we make that is a mistake, I think we absorb it and learn from it. The girls don't like to make mistakes twice."

Davis, meanwhile, quickly learned from her miscues. After allowing seven walks through two frames, the Woodsville ace settled in. She didn't issue a free pass the rest of the way and kept the Crusader bats at bay. Clinging to a 4-3 advantage in the seventh, Davis fanned Glidden and induced a groundout and a popout to Littleton's Lindsey Hadlock and Brianna Ash to end the contest.

"Katie was a little off and didn't have her stuff today, but she toughened up in the end," Hatch said. "It was easy for us to lose this game today, but we came back and won. I think it helps us more and more that we keep playing and winning these types of games. We're happy to beat them. Littleton is a solid club."

In the season opener, Woodsville staved off a wild Crusader comeback to earn the 7-6 victory in 12 innings. The Engineers then fell 9-8 at Gorham and haven't lost since. LHS, meanwhile, has rallied from a 1-3 start to the season, but is 0-2 in contests in which they've tried to get over the .500 mark.

"It's hard to beat a team three times," Martin noted. "I'd love to see Woodsville in the playoffs. We know we can beat them. We know what we need to do to beat them and we'll try to get things figured out."

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