LUNENBURG — The North Middlesex softball team had the role of spoiler when they traveled to Lunenburg for a MidWach crossover game. Lunenburg entered the contest on the post-season bubble and needed the game to ensure a District berth.
The Blue Knights ended up punching their tickets to the playoffs, but not without a fight from the upset-minded Lady Pats. Lunenburg broke a 1-1 tie with two runs in the bottom of the fifth that proved to be the difference in a hard-fought 3-1 win.
Brittany Proctor earned the victory on the mound for the Blue Knights with a route-going effort, allowing one earned run and four hits while striking out eight and walking one. She was overpowering at times and also showed the ability to come up with the big pitch when needed to escape jams. Proctor chipped in offensively as well, driving in an insurance run in the fifth inning.
Freshman Vanessa Tenore pitched a strong game for North Middlesex, surrendering two earned runs and six hits over six innings. She struck out three and walked only one. She did a solid job of getting ahead of the Lunenburg hitters and playing to her defense as she continued the steady progress she has made throughout her rookie varsity season.
North Middlesex went down in order in the top of the first on a strikeout and a pair of groundouts, and Lunenburg mounted a threat in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Brittany Cullinane singled and stole second. One out later, Proctor hit a hard ground ball toward the middle that North Middlesex second baseman Jackie Cobleigh backhanded and fired to first for the third out. Cobleigh showed outstanding range and sure hands in making the run-saving play.
The Lady Patriots took the lead in the top of the second. Tenore led off by ripping a double into the left center field gap. She scored on Danielle Goudreau’s one-out single. Proctor bore down to escape further damage by notching a strikeout and inducing a groundout.
Lunenburg put the leadoff hitter on base in the bottom of the inning when Jen Amblo drew a walk, but a solid defensive play by the Lady Pats diffused the Blue Knights opportunity. Shortstop Hayley Lynch caught a pop-up and alertly fired to first base to complete the double play as the baserunner had strayed too far from the base and couldn’t make it back in time.
Proctor dominated the top of the third by retiring the side in order, all on strikeouts, and the Blue Knights caught a break in the bottom of the inning and tied the game. After the first two hitters were retired easily, Sarah Dufresne swung at a third strike in the dirt and was safe at first when the ball bounced away. She stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Cullinane’s single to make it 1-1.
The Lady Patriots threatened in the fourth and fifth innings, but couldn’t come up with the big hit to break the deadlock.
In the fourth, Hayley Lynch doubled down the left field line with two outs, but Proctor got an inning-ending pop-out to escape.
In the fifth, Arianna Gath walked and Cobleigh reached on an error to put runners on first and second with no outs, but Proctor bore down. After notching a strikeout, a pop-up to shortstop Molly Poirier turned into a double play when the North Middlesex baserunner couldn’t get back to the base.
Tenore showed plenty of mettle and poise in the bottom of the fourth to keep the game on even terms. After she got a pop-up for the first out of the inning, Amblo and Ashley Bergeron reached on back-to-back errors to put runners on first and second. Tenore got the job done single-handedly, spearing Ambria Billotta’s line drive for the second out,before fielding Amy Finch’s one-hopper up the middle and firing to first for the third out.
Lunenburg put together the decisive rally in the bottom of the inning. Dufresne led off with a walk, stole second and moved to third when Cullinane grounded out to shortstop. Poirier then came through with a run-producing single to make it 2-1. She later came around on Proctor’s RBI single, although Proctor was out trying for second base and a perfect relay from North Middlesex left fielder Goudreau to Lynch to Cobleigh.
Lunenburg picked up a pair of singles in the bottom of the sixth but couldn’t pad the lead.
North Middlesex didn’t go quietly and fought to their final out. With one out in the top of the seventh, Goudreau reached on an error. After a flyout, Cobleigh singled to put runners on first and second, but Proctor fielded a grounder and fired to first base to strand the tying run on base.
“This was a good game,” said North Middlesex coach Kate Pomerleau. “We played well defensively but we just didn’t hit. We have improved every game and the girls just need to realize that and keep their heads up.”