North Middlesex 0
TOWNSEND — Monday afternoon’s game between the Leominster and North Middlesex softball teams featured two of the best pitchers in Central Massachusetts in Allie Hardy and Nicole Monroe. Conventional wisdom entering the contest was that the first run was vital and whichever team made less mistakes would prevail.
Conventional wisdom held up as Leominster posted a 4-0 win despite getting just one hit. Hardy prevailed in the pitching duel because of the command she showed as she allowed just two hits, while striking out nine and walking none. The outstanding righthander consistently got ahead of hitters throughout the game and allowed only one North Middlesex runner to reach second base.
Monroe threw hard, but struggled with her command. The junior successfully walked a tightrope for the first four innings before Leominster scored the only run they would need in the top of the fifth. Monroe struck out 11 but walked eight in the game.
”You can’t make mistakes against good teams,” said North Middlesex coach Pat Murphy. “The walks created scoring opportunities for Leominster and we held them off for awhile, but sooner or later it will catch up to you.”
The first four innings were scoreless, but Monroe spent much of her time pitching with Blue Devils on the bases. But she made quality pitches when she needed to and escaped.
Over that span, Hardy allowed just two baserunners. In the first Tracey Ericson singled with one out, and in the fourth Kara Tansey led off by reaching on an error.
But after leaving a pair of baserunners on in both the third and fourth innings, the Blue Devils broke the ice in the top of the fifth. With one out, Jordan Storro reached on an error. Hardy ripped a hard shot down the first base line that was gloved by North Middlesex first baseman Amanda Quin for the second out, but Emily Griffen blooped a single into shallow left field to plate Storro and put Leominster on top 1-0.
After getting the run, Hardy smelled blood and faced only nine batters over the final three innings. Just one of them, Ericson, reached base but after getting her second single of the game she was cut down trying to steal second.
Leominster put the game on ice with a bizarre three-run sixth, accomplished without the benefit of a hit. A pair of walks, a botched third strike, and a fielder’s choice where everyone was safe contributed to the insurance runs.
Leominster right fielder Jill Powers capped off the win in style, racing into foul territory to flag down Alicia Larsen’s fly ball for the final out of the game.
Leominster improved to 14-2 with the victory while the Lady Patriots remained firmly on the post-season bubble with an 8-7 record.