ITEM PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Swampscott players congratulate Kasey Kennedy after she scored a run.
By HAROLD RIVERA
BEVERLY– The Swampscott softball team is winning crucial games in the Division 2 North state tournament and having fun along the way.
With a 3-1 win over No. 5 Burlington on Friday at Endicott, the fun continues for the No. 16 Big Blue.
“This is a fun sport,” Swampscott coach Gary Moran said. “Winning is fun, winning is contagious. These girls all come to the games looking to have a good time.”
In following its norm, Swampscott relied on pitching and defense to get the job done in Friday’s win. Senior ace Hannah Leahy starred in the circle, fanning seven Burlington batters and allowing just four hits and one walk in seven innings of quality work.
Defensively Swampscott was stout and sharp, minus a miscue in the bottom of the third inning when the Red Devils scored a run on a double-steal attempt.
“For us it’s pitching and defense,” Moran said. “That’s it. As long as Hannah’s throwing the ball well and our defense is making plays behind her, we can go as far as our pitching and defense take us.”
Friday’s game was a pitcher’s duel from the early innings. Leahy allowed a walk to leadoff hitter Erin Browne in the bottom of the first but bounced back to retire the next five batters she faced.
On the Burlington side, sophomore pitcher Christina Clark retired the first 10 Big Blue batters and struck out seven of them.
The Red Devils scored the afternoon’s first run in the bottom of the third. Meaghan Gurska laced a single and Fran Rubino moved pinch-runner Erica Carney over to second base after a sac-bunt. Gabrielle Desrochers followed with a single, placing Burlington runners on first and third. With Browne at the plate, Desrochers took off for second and forced herself into a pickle that allowed Carney to race home for the 1-0 Burlington lead.
The Big Blue bounced back quickly with a pair of runs in the fourth. Kasey Kennedy doubled to left field and came around to score after Leahy’s fly ball to right was misplayed. The miscue allowed Leahy to sprint all the way to third base. Riley Lord took advantage of the opportunity and put Swampscott ahead with a sharp RBI single, scoring Leahy for the 2-1 edge.
“We don’t get down,” Moran said. “We gave up a run on a fluke play. They had the double-steal going and caught us off-balance. That’s stuff we work on in practice but we didn’t we execute. We don’t hang our heads, it’s just on to the next play.”
Although Swampscott struggled to put runners on base the first time around the order, mid-game adjustments helped Big Blue batters in their second go-round against Clark.
“The team has been making adjustments for the last couple games,” Moran said. “We never get down, we’re never too low and never too high. We do what we have to do to make plays and grind out at-bats. We didn’t have too many hits but our hits came in huge spots.”
Burlington’s best chance to even the contest came in the sixth, when Rubino led the inning with a double and stood at third base with two outs. Leahy ended the inning with a strikeout to keep the 2-1 lead.
Ashley Marston’s two-out RBI double in the seventh scored Leanne Nisbet to pad the Big Blue’s lead at 3-1.
“Ashley looked good in the cage today,” Moran said. “She got a pitch she could handle and drove it the other way.”
Kaitlyn Campbell singled with two outs in the bottom of the seventh but Burlington’s attempt at a late rally fell short and Swampscott took the 3-1 win.
The victory advances Swampscott into Sunday’s final at Endicott against No. 2 Dracut.