AYER — Ayer Shirley came into Tuesday afternoon’s Mid-Wach E league game against Murdock with its focus on qualifying for the district tournament.
The Panthers defeated the Blue Devils, 3-1, behind a stellar pitching performance from Sydney Greeno, who struck out 11 and allowed 6 hits in a complete-game effort.
“It was nice to see Syd comeback and pitch well,” said Ayer Shirley head coach Terri Rollins. “She got hit in the knee pretty bad in our last game against Maynard. She game back strong. They held them and they did well.”
Ayer Shirley is just one win shy of a district tournament berth with two games left in the regular season. The Panthers travel to Lunenburg on Wednesday afternoon and then to Tahanto on Friday.
“We got to go out and get one-out-of-two,” said Rollins. “They (Ayer Shirley) have to work better on their hitting and be more patient in the box. The girls are coming together after starting out slow. Mid-season we were strong and battled and we dropped off a little. The top of our lineup dropped off and the bottom half stepped up. It’s been reversed a little bit lately — five-and-below are stepping up.”
Michele Woodland’s (2-for-3) two-run single in the fourth inning gave the Panthers the lead, when Hannah Justice and Molly Cadogan came across to score both the go-ahead run and an insurance run. Cadogan paced the Panthers at the dish going 3-for-3 with an RBI.
Greeno made quick work of the Blue Devils in the first inning after allowing a leadoff hit to Meagan Knight. Knight was left stranded at second base, as Greeno retired the next three batters in order — two of which came via strikeouts.
Ayer Shirley did not fair much better in the opening frame.
Two-hole hitter Jenn McGrath struck out and reached on a fielding error after a dropped third strike by Murdock catcher Maria Polcari.
McGrath advanced to second on a passed ball and was left stranded as Murdock pitcher Emily Smith caused Natalie Carroll to pop out and struck out Greeno to retire the side.
Greeno kept the Blue Devils off balance in the second. The Ayer Shirley ace sent Murdock down swinging in order to keep the game scoreless.
Justice ripped a ground rule double into the brush in right-center field.
She would later be thrown out on a close play at third.
Ayer Shirley benefited from a series of bad luck plays by the Murdock defense. Cadogan reached on an error and scored on the second error of the play to give the Panthers the 1-0 lead.
Greeno kept Murdock in check in the third as she retired the side in order with a pair of putouts by first baseman Sarah Ernst.
Ayer Shirley failed to get anything going in the third inning, when it left McGrath stranded at second after she singled and advanced on a wild pitch.
Murdock tied the game in the fourth with one-out on a deep Sacrifice-Fly to left field by Emily Knight that scored Jocelyn Garner from third.
Ayer Shirley 6
Steven Lawton 4 for 4 and scored 3 times to lead the Panthers past Murdock.
Nick Granger (3-for-4, 2 RBI) and Noah Watson (3-for-4, 2 RBI) had stellar days at the dish.
Andrew Consolvo earned the win through 5 innings of work and Michael Woodland pitched well in relief. Ayer Shirley needs one more win in its final two games to qualify for the postseason.
The Crusaders fall to 3-14 with the loss.
Sophie Irby and Katie Royal scored three goals each and Julia Stathis added two for the Crusaders (13-4, 8-2 Mid-Wach A).
Jack O’Neill scored three times for the Crusaders (14-5, 5-3 Mid-Wach A) on the road.
Shrewsbury (13-6, 7-0 Mid-Wach A) clinched the Mid-Wach A title with the win.
Avi Jivanani def. Matt McNulty (N) in second singles for the lone Crusader match point. G-D drops to 4-8 overall and 2-3 Mid-Wach B.
G-D falls to 3-8 overall and 3-4 in Mid-Wach B.