PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
From left, Katie Watts and Ashley Bucklin listen as coach Gary Moran gives them words of praise for the season’s efforts.
By SCOT COOPER
BEVERLY — For the third straight season, the Swampscott High softball team came up empty in the Division 2 North championship game Sunday afternoon at Endicott College.
This time, it was Dracut that grabbed the crown away from the Big Blue with a comeback 12-5 win.
Things started off well for the Blue. Sydney Cresta reached on an error and scored when Swampscott pitcher Hannah Leahy banged a hard single in the first. Up by one, Leahy breezed through the first six Dracut batters, retiring all six easily, thanks to some nice defense by her infielders.
The Big Blue put a couple more runs up against the No. 2 seed Middies in the top of the third, once again capitalizing on errors. With one out, Cresta singled off Dracut hurler Ryley White. Cresta stole second and moved to third base when Kasey Kennedy got aboard thanks to an error. Catcher Sarah Ryan delivered Cresta to the plate with a shot in the gap, and Kennedy came home when the throw to the plate missed everyone wearing Dracut blue.
Middies coach George Roy said his message was simple to his girls after Swampscott took the lead.
“I told them we just needed to have better at-bats, get up there, get better swings and make things happen at the plate,” Roy said. “We made some adjustments after their pitcher (Leahy) did a nice job on us early.”
“I just told the girls to go up to the plate and relax and have better at bats,” Roy said. “Swampscott came in as the No. 17 seed, they played well, like they had nothing to lose, and we came out very tight and shaky, but we were able to settle everything down.”
Dracut made it 3-1 in its half of the third, and then blew things up, scoring seven times in the fourth after their were two out. Lauren Byam started the rally with a base hit, stole second and scored on an error. It was one of three runs she scored.
The Middies tacked on a single run in the fourth to make it 9-3.
Swampscott (15-10) came up in the fifth, down by six runs, and got a little rally going, scoring two runs. Kennedy led off with a single, but she was erased when Ryan hit into a fielder’s choice. Amelia Groothius ran for Ryan and she came in on a smash by Riley Lord for two bases. Lord came in on a single by Margot Beaupre, cutting it to 9-5, but that was it for the Big Blue on offense.
Dracut added three runs in the bottom of the sixth, and coasted to the win. the Middies improve to 19-4 and will face Norton in the state semifinals Tuesday night at Endicott College.
Swampscott coach Gary Moran said his team battled and had a good run in the playoffs, but it’s another frustrating end for his team.
“We made a couple of mistakes in the sixth when there were two outs, and gave them seven unearned runs, and you can’t give the No. 2 seed seven runs,” Moran said. “That was the game right there, that fourth inning.”
“I liked how we fought back and got a couple of runs in the fifth, my girls worked their tails off today, we just had one rough inning that did us in,” Moran added.
For Dracut, White ended up striking out eight. Catcher Sabrina Morse had two hits and two RBI, and Nicole Turgeon had two hits and an RBI.