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By Ed Niser

eniser@nashobavalleyvoice.com

GROTON — Facing a southpaw pitcher presents a challenge due to the slightly different release.

Groton-Dunstable had faced left-handers a couple of times during the regular season, but it had not seen one of Shrewsbury’s Emma Lacasse’s caliber.

Lacasse held the Groton-Dunstable offense intact, surrendering four hits over seven innings and did not cough up a run until the seventh inning, as No. 5 Shrewsbury topped No. 4 Groton-Dunstable, 4-2, in the Division 1 Central Mass quarterfinal.

“She threw a great game,” said first-year Groton-Dunstable head coach John Palumbo on Lacasse. “We tried to prepare for a lefty, but she was better than advertised. Hats off to her and the job she did. They strung some hits together and you have to give them a lot of credit.”

Senior Laura Bieren socked a two-run home run with two outs in the seventh to dead-center field, as the Crusaders’ comeback bid fell short.

Groton-Dunstable wraps up the season at 16-5 overall and as co-champions in the Mid Wach B with Hudson.

Shrewsbury’s offense shined behind the bat of freshman nine-hole hitter Gianna Simone. Simone was 3 for 3 with two doubles and an RBI.

For Groton-Dunstable, Bieren led the way with a double and a home run, while senior Sarah Woods added a pair of singles. Emily Figueroa and Charlotte McCarthy each had a single in the loss.

“I am proud of my girls,” said Palumbo. “Their pitcher kept them down the whole game, but at the end, there was some fight. And Laura Bieren, she has had a couple of walk-offs for us and she starts rallies — that’s just what she does. As hard as Sarah Woods is going to be to replace, Laura Bieren is right up there with her.”

It was a pitchers’ duel through the first three innings. Woods registered the first hit for the Crusaders with a single up the middle in the second, but she was left stranded. LaCasse retired the next three batters in order with a pop-out to second and a pair of strikeouts.

Shrewsbury hung the first run of the game in the fourth on an RBI double by Simone that rolled to the left field fence and scored Casey Willitts from first.McCarthy attempted to keep the Shrewsbury defense on its toes in the bottom of the third with a bunt attempt.

The bunt appeared to be well-placed, but it was ruled that the ball hit her as she left the box, thus resulting in an out.

With two gone, Bieren stroked a gap-shot to right-center field and trotted into second with a double. But she was left stranded as Figueroa popped out to end the inning.

Shrewsbury brought in two insurance runs in the fifth and added one in the seventh to round out the scoring.

Palumbo said that there will be a void to fill with the exit of the seniors.

“I am going to miss the seniors a lot,” said Palumbo. “I am going to miss their leadership and sense of humor and the way they fight — I hope that it rubbed off on the younger kids.”

Follow Ed Niser on Twitter/Tout: @EdNiser.

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