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Big Blue will rely on pitching, defense in semis

FILE PHOTO
Hannah Leahy has been dominant in the postseason. 

By HAROLD RIVERA 

Pitching and defense has been key for the Swampscott softball team in its Division 3 North tournament run. The Big Blue will look to continue to rely on solid pitching and stout defense as it gears up to clash against Burlington in the Division 2 North semifinal today at Endicott.

Although the No. 16 Big Blue haven’t played against No. 5 Burlington this season, coach Gary Moran and his players know to expect a battle.

Christina Clark, Burlington’s pitcher, has been stellar in the playoffs and the Red Devils offense has been red-hot. The Red Devils scored nine runs in a 9-0 first round win over Triton and plated eight more in an 8-3 quarterfinals victory over Gloucester.

“Their pitcher (Clark) was the MVP of their league and she threw a no-hitter against Triton in the opening round,” Moran said. “We have our work cut out for us in that regard. As far as their hitters, I don’t know too much in that regard but they’re probably like most teams that are still playing. The 1-2 hitters will look to slap and bunt and the 3-4 hitters will look to drive the ball.”

Swampscott’s game plan in countering Burlington’s strengths begins senior pitcher Hannah Leahy. The two-time Northeastern Conference MVP has been stellar in the circle in the postseason. Leahy blanked Pentucket in a 7-0 win in the preliminaries and shut out Wilmington with a 1-0 victory in the quarterfinals.

Moran and the Big Blue know that close games are the norm at this stage and it helps when Leahy brings her A-game.

“We faced a good Pentucket team and won an absolute battle at North Reading,” Moran said. “Yesterday we played a great 1-0 game against a Wilmington team that’s well coached. This time of the year we know that games are going to be close.”

Although it comes as no surprise that Leahy is stepping up in big moments, Swampscott’s underclassmen have also done their part.

In Wednesday’s win at Wilmington, sophomore catcher Sarah Ryan hit a seventh-inning sacrifice fly that scored Leahy with the eventual game-winning run. Ryan also hit a crucial sacrifice-fly in the win at North Reading.

“Hannah does it all for us every game,” Moran said. “I’m pleasantly surprised at the way the rest of the team’s playing. Our defense has been great and we’re grinding out at-bats. Everyone’s taking it upon themselves to be the best they can be and help the team get a victory.”

Moran added, “Sarah  has been catching for us all year, since day one, and doing a great job. Sydney Cresta, a sophomore, hit close to .500 and has been huge for us at the top of our lineup. Riley Lord, a junior, has played solid at shortstop all year.”

Swampscott’s seniors have also provided key contributions. Infielder Kasey Kennedy and outfielders Leanne Nisbet and Ashley Bucklin, along with Leahy, have provided the necessary leadership to help the Big Blue in its run.

“Everyone on our team believes that we’re going to win every single game,” Moran said. “That’s a great attitude.”

As Swampscott prepares for Burlington, the Big Blue will stick to what’s worked thus far. If Leahy can continue to dominate and the defense makes the plays to support her, Swampscott will put itself in a good position to advance to Sunday’s final.

“Hopefully Burlington can expect a pitcher’s duel,” Moran said. “We’ll rely on pitching and defense. Hopefully we can scrap together a few runs, take a look at the scoreboard after the game and see what happens.”

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