Gilford rally comes up short in wild softball game



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Shortstop Molly Dietrich waits just prior to lining the game-tying single in the bottom of the seventh for Gilford on April 20. The Golden Eagles fell in extra innings to Winnisquam, 23-18. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
April 25, 2011
GILFORD – It certainly wasn't just another day at the ballpark for the Gilford High School and Winnisquam Regional High School softball teams on April 20, as freezing temperatures weren't enough to derail a pair of offenses that combined to score 41 runs.

In the end however, visiting Winnisquam scored five times in the top of the eighth inning and held on in the bottom of the extra frame to escape Gilford with a 23-18 win that took nearly three hours to play.

"One thing this game shows is that both teams were stuck inside a gym too long and we both need to field better because this was a pretty sloppy game," said Winnisquam coach Kevin Dame. "We didn't play smart mentally for most of the day but the girls kept swinging and they showed a lot of heart in sticking with it."

Gilford coach Joan Forge pointed out that with the moving back of the mound to 43 feet, high-scoring games like this one will be more common than in past years.

"What's really wonderful is that with the change, offense is back in the game," she said. "You're not going to see as many of those 1-0 games where the pitchers are dominating and you're sitting around waiting for someone to make an error. Games like this are a lot more fun. Yeah, it's not fun to lose but this was a fun game to watch."

This one had a little bit of everything.

Winnisquam put together its finest offensive inning of the season in the top of the first, as the Bears shot out of the gate by scoring 13 runs before they even had to take the field. Elyssa Clairmont had a three-run double during the nine-hit frame for Winnisquam, as the top six hitters in the order (Abbie Roy, Mackenzie Burdick, Carolyn Hajdusek, Stephanie D'Abbraccio, Felicia Demers and Clairmont) all scored two runs in the first.

"We absolutely pounded the ball in that first inning," said Dame. "It was even more impressive against a very good pitcher (Sydney Strout) and in freezing cold weather. I couldn't have been happier about the offense."

Trailing 13-0 before they even made their way to the plate, the Golden Eagles began chipping away at the Winnisquam lead. While the game still looked out of reach when Gilford trailed 14-4 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Eagles had their own monster inning to change the complexion of the contest completely.

Gilford posted 12 runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 16-14 lead, shocking the Bears. Catcher Paige Laliberte had a huge two-run triple in the frame as nine straight Eagles scored runs. Strout's two-run single tied the game at 14 while Molly Dietrich scored on a passed ball to give Gilford its first lead of the day. Abby Harris' RBI groundout scored Strout and gave the home team a 16-14 lead heading into the final inning.

"I think we got a little complacent in those middle innings," admitted Dame. "We had this big lead and all of a sudden, they score all those runs to come right back and we had a few breakdowns."

The comeback was especially impressive since Gilford has such a young core, with the bulk of its roster made up of sophomores.

"It was a true test of their character and they did a nice job facing adversity," said Forge.

Trailing by two with just three outs remaining, Winnisquam dug deep. Burdick singled and Hajdusek reached on an error with one out and the duo moved up a base on a passed ball. That set the stage for D'Abbraccio, and the left fielder delivered a bullet up the middle that scored both runs and tied the game at 16. The Bears would tack on two more runs thanks to a Hannah Chapin two-run single and just like that, Winnisquam led 18-16.

"I knew we had the top of our lineup up to lead it off so at that point, I was just trying to pump the girls up and make sure they kept in it," said Dame.

But the see-saw affair wasn't over yet, as walks to Gilford's Melissa Ryan and Kelsey Buckley put runners on base with one out. After a strikeout, Ryan stole third on a ball in the dirt and Buckley moved up to second with two away. Down to her final strike, Dietrich roped a base hit up the middle to score both runners and tie the game again at 18, forcing extra innings.

"There are certain players that you want up in those situations and Molly is definitely one of them," Forge said.

But Winnisquam put the game away for good in the top of the eighth, as the Bears' first five hitters all reached and came around to score. Hajdusek drove in the go-ahead run on an RBI single and D'Abbraccio, who was an impressive 5-for-6 with eight RBI, followed with a two-run knock of her own. Demers also had a two-run hit during the rally.

Gilford threatened once again in the bottom of the frame, loading the bases before Hajdusek picked up her seventh strikeout of the game to end it.

"We made some bad plays in the field in the middle innings but I'm glad we didn't take what we did in the field to the plate in the seventh and eighth," Dame explained.

Burdick and Chapin had three hits apiece to pace Winnisquam while Dietrich had three singles for Gilford. The teams combined for 33 hits before the wild game was over.

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