WORCESTER — The afternoon was something out of Edgar Allen Poe, dank, raw and drizzly, hardly a perfect day for softball. But the plot proved to be Poe-ish also as both the Ayer and Worcester Tech softball teams played hot potato with the softball in their tournament opener. In the end, Worcester Tech prevailed 9-8 on Ashley Nelson’s long home run to left field, the Eagles’ only hit of the day.
Only four of the 17 runs in the game were earned as both defenses struggled to make routine plays.
“We just made too many errors and mistakes,” said Ayer coach Dan Civitarese. “We made a nice comeback in the top of the seventh, after a terrible bottom of the sixth. We could have folded but didn’t. They won the game on a nice hit.”
Both starting pitchers, Alyia Rivers of Worcester Tech, and Gina Gibson of Ayer breezed through perfect first innings, and after Rivers tossed another goose egg in the top of the second, Worcester Tech drew first blood in the bottom of the inning when Allie Marsden and Danielle Hussey both drew walks and eventually came around to score on wild pitches to make it 2-0.
Ayer tied the game in the top of the third when the Worcester Tech defense totally collapsed. After one out, Sabrina Schwartz, Jess Peck, Taylor Fox and Gibson reached on consecutive errors to make it 2-1. Heather Hoffman plated Peck when she grounded into a fielder’s choice to tie the game.
The Lady Panthers grabbed their first lead of the contest with two more runs in the top of the fourth. Danielle Christy singled to lead off, advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on Hayley Wilcox’s one-out single. When Wilcox stole second the ball sailed into center field, allowing Christy to score. Later in the inning, Wilcox escaped a rundown between third and home and scored when the ball was dropped by the catcher to put Ayer up 4-2.
The Eagles drew to within 4-3 with a run in the bottom of the inning when Lexi Dahlstrom walked and scored on a wild pitch.
The Lady Panthers ran into some bad luck in the top of the fifth, hitting three balls hard with nothing to show for it. Taylor Fox hit a line drive that Worcester Tech rightfielder Danielle Hussey made a shoestring catch on to take away a hit. After Gibson singled, Hoffman ripped a vicious line drive to shortstop Nelson, who snagged the ball and fired to first for an inning-ending double play.
Gibson tossed a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth, and Ayer rebuilt the two-run lead with a run in the top of the sixth. Amanda Shaughnessy walked and moved to third when Christy singled and the ball was misplayed in the outfield. Shaughnessy scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-3.
That set the stage for a nightmarish bottom of the sixth for the Ayer defense. Walks to Nelson and Mary Catherine Baniukiewicz set the table, but five Ayer errors over a four batter span fueled a five-run uprising which put the home team in charge at 8-5.
Ayer quickly shook the inning off and went to work offensively in the top of the seventh. Peck and Fox led off with singles and Peck scored when Gibson reached on an error. Hoffman sliced the lead to one with a sacrifice fly, before Shaughnessy plated Gibson with the equalizer when she grounded out. The Worcester Tech defense came up big for the final out of the inning as Christy singled but was thrown out at second by leftfielder Baniukiewicz, on a call that could have gone either way.
After a groundout for the first out in the bottom of the seventh, Nelson turned around a fastball and drove it to deep left. She scurried around the bases to propel the Eagles into the next round.
Christy led the Ayer offense with three singles and a run scored while Peck singled and scored two runs.