SAUGUS — While the outcome of the Saugus softball team’s game against Swampscott on Monday was important for purposes of qualifying for the state tournament, the real focus of Monday’s game at Belmonte Middle School was a member of the Saugus junior varsity softball team.
Monday’s game served as a fundraiser for pediatric cancer, with all proceeds going to Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital. Why those two hospitals? Because they are the places where one of Saugus’ own, Belmonte eighth-grader Jeovana Goncalves, has received treatment for cancer over the past couple years.
“Jeovana made the JV team this year, but she had recently had a procedure done that made it difficult to be outside in the foul weather and she was going to quit,” Saugus coach Steve Almquist said of Goncalves, who was on hand to throw out the first pitch Monday. “Well, no one wanted to see her quit, so we had her stay on as a team manager and come to the games whenever she could. So this was just something we wanted to do to raise awareness and raise some money for the places that have been taking care of her these past couple years.”
Almquist pointed to his team as the impetus for getting the fundraiser together.
“This was all spearheaded by the kids,” Almquist said. “It’s just how these kids are here in Saugus, when someone is down all the kids and parents rally around and help out. I couldn’t be prouder. To get a win on top of everything is great, but just to see how these kids support each other is more than enough and really puts things in perspective.”
Volunteers sold gold rubber bracelets, T-shirts, hair bows, food and also held a 50-50 raffle to raise funds.
As for the game, the Sachems notched a crucial win over Swampscott, 14-9, to keep Saugus’ tournament hopes alive. It was an up-and-down affair for the Sachems, who jumped ahead 5-0 before surrendering the lead, stealing it back and then holding on to win in the end.
“We usually don’t get the jump on teams like we did today, so that was a nice surprise before we gave it up,” Almquist said. “But today we got the clutch hits when we needed them, which is something that hasn’t happened much for us this year.”
Saugus got to work in the bottom of the first, pushing three runs across thanks to two Swampscott errors and an RBI groundout from Sadie DiCenso (1-for-3, three RBI). The Sachems then added two more runs in the bottom of the third when pitcher Caitlin Wood (2-for-4, three RBI) singled home a run and DJ Munafo (3-for-3, RBI) knocked a sacrifice fly to centerfield, giving Saugus a 5-0 lead.
It took a while for Swampscott to get going, as the Big Blue didn’t have a single hit against Wood over the first three innings. But in the fourth, the bats woke up. It started with a leadoff single from Sydney Cresta (2-for-5) to break up the no-no, then Mia Hopkins reached on an error. Katie Watts (2-for-4, two RBI) followed with an RBI single to get Swampscott on the board, then Chloe Rakauskas stepped in and laced a two-run triple into rightfield. Next up was Riley Lord (2-for-4, RBI), who knocked in Rakauskas with an RBI single to make it 5-4.
The top of the fifth saw Swampscott jump ahead. After Cresta singled, stole second and scored on an error to tie the score, Watts added another RBI single to give the Big Blue a 6-5 lead.
But it didn’t take long for Saugus to respond. The Sachems put together a six-run bottom of the fifth thanks to two-run singles from both Wood and Alexa Ferraro (1-for-5, two RBI) and a two-run double from DiCenso to jump back out in front, 11-6.
While Swampscott was able to add runs in the sixth and seventh innings thanks to Caleigh Hopkins (1-for-3, RBI) and Nicolette Fraser (0-for-3, RBI), it wasn’t enough to get the lead back. Saugus added a few more runs in the bottom of the sixth thanks to an RBI double from Nystasia Rowe (2-for-4, RBI) and a two-run double from Emma Howard (1-for-4, two RBI) to seal the win.
It was certainly a big win for the Sachems, who still need four more wins over their final six games to make the tournament.
“This was a big one for us because I think it might spur us on and give the kids a little bit of confidence going into the end of the year,” Almquist said.
Saugus (6-8) will try to keep this momentum going into Wednesday when the Sachems take on Salem.