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Title game trouble

Four-run seventh pushes Coe-Brown past Kennett in softball finals

THE KENNETT SOFTBALL TEAM poses with the Class I runner-up plaque after Saturday's title game in Concord. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
June 12, 2010
CONCORD — If high school softball games were only six innings, the Kennett girls would be celebrating a Class I title this week.

However, the NHIAA mandates that games are seven innings, and that final inning was enough to seal the Eagles' fate, as Coe-Brown, playing in the title game for the third year in a row, finally broke into the win column and walked off with a 5-3 victory in the championship game at Concord's Memorial Field on Saturday.

The game was three months to the day from when the Kennett girls' hoop team won its Class I title and coach Peter Ames was looking to become the first coach in Kennett history to win two championships in the same school year. And for six innings, it looked like his girls we're going to make that a reality.

However, an error, a bloop hit and a couple of hard hit drives by the Bears pushed across four runs and the Eagles couldn't rally and finished the season with the runner-up plaque.

"I guess that's why we play all seven," Ames stated. "We made a bunch of mistakes throughout the day, but we overcame those and took the lead.

"Then that little blooper we should catch, nobody did and that opened the door and they got the big hits," the veteran coach continued. "It's always something little like that. The big hits brought in the runs, but the little things gave them the opportunity."

The blooper Ames was referring to came in the top of the seventh inning with Kennett up 3-1. After pitcher Whitney Roberts induced a grounder to short for the first out, a Bear batter reached base on an error. Another grounder to short put the Eagles one out away from a championship.

The next batter blooped a pop-up that fell between charging second baseman Sam Janos and Roberts, backpedaling from the pitcher's circle. The bloop put runners on first and third and the next batter lined a shot to right centerfield. Alyssa Chick made a diving attempt but couldn't come up with it and the game was tied at three.

The next batter than lined a shot over the glove of Faye Roberts in left field. The ball rolled to the fence and the batter circled the bases for a 5-3 lead.

The Eagles went in order in the bottom of the inning and left the celebrating to the Bears, who, after losing two title games in a row, finally got the Class I championship plaque.

Both teams threatened in the first inning of the game, which was marred by drizzle throughout, but neither team got on the board.

Whitney Roberts got the first two Bear hitters, but a base hit and an error put two runners in scoring position. However, the next batter grounded to Janos at second to end the threat.

Amber McPherson got Kennett's offensive day off to a good start, poking a shot off the centerfielder's glove for a leadoff hit. Chick hit a grounder back to the pitcher that appeared to be a double play ball, but the hustling Kennett lefty beat out the relay from second. Whitney Roberts walked, but the two Eagles were stranded on a strikeout and a grounder to shortstop.

Whitney Roberts struck out the side in the top of the second inning and Katie Bishop led off with a walk in the bottom of the inning. However, courtesy runner Jordyn Moore was gunned down stealing second and the Eagles couldn't get on the board.

Coe-Brown took advantage of Eagle miscues in the top of the third inning to plate the game's first run. A base hit and throwing error put a Bear runner on second. A sacrifice bunt moved her to third and the next batter also tried to bunt. The runner didn't break for the plate right away and the hesitation was costly, as the Eagle hurler fielded the bunt and tossed to Bishop at the plate to cut down the run. However, a stolen base, an error and a wild pitch allowed the Bears to get on the board with a 1-0 lead before the inning was over.

Kennett went quietly in the bottom of the third and Coe-Brown threatened again in the fourth. With one out, a base hit and walk put two runners on base. One out later, McPherson and Lauren White combined on a nice defensive play to get out of the inning. McPherson made a great play on a grounder to short and White did a great job picking the high throw at first base, ending the inning.

Kennett got on the board in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Faye Roberts had a base hit and White followed with another base hit, putting runners on the corners. White stole second and Bishop hit a ball that was fielded by the Coe-Brown pitcher. She tried to get Faye Roberts in a rundown between home and third, but the throw from third to home hit the Eagle leftfielder in the back and she dived across the plate to tie the game at one. Janos followed with a nice bunt, but White was gunned down trying to score, keeping the game knotted at one.

Coe-Brown got another bloop hit in the top of the fifth, but the Eagles worked around it with a couple of grounders and a pop up and in the bottom of the inning, took their first lead.

Number nine hitter Marissa Strong led off the inning with a booming double and moved to third on a base hit by McPherson, who alertly took second on the throw. Chick lofted a fly ball to center and Strong tagged up and trotted home with the go-ahead run. Whitney Roberts followed by reaching on an error, plating McPherson, but the Eagle pitcher thought she was called out at first and left the bag. The alert Bear firstbaseman chased her down and applied the tag for the second out of the inning. Faye Roberts followed with a base hit and took second on a wild pitch, but she was stranded on the bases.

A great defensive play by Strong at third on a bunt attempt to open the sixth set the tone for Kennett, as Whitney Roberts also made a fine play on a bunt in the frame, in which the Bears went down in order.

Janos walked in the sixth, but pinchrunner Karli Olson was gunned down trying to steal second, the final threat the Eagles would have.

Coe-Brown took advantage in the top of the seventh and the Eagles couldn't rally in the bottom of the inning, ending the season with a 17-3 record.

"We gave them an extra hitter and any time you do that, it comes back to get you," Ames said. "We just didn't make the plays.

"We did some good things to get ahead, but we just didn't finish it off."

The Eagles will lose only one starting senior, Strong, to graduation and will likely return a lineup of experienced softball finalists to the field next season.

"We're a pretty young team and we haven't been here before," Ames said. "The mistakes kind of compounded themselves."

Martin Lord & Osman
Martin Lord Osman
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