MARBLEHEAD — Sometimes, a little rain can be a good thing.
The No. 4 Marblehead softball team started Friday’s Division 2 North opener against No. 13 Melrose a little shaky and fell behind early. Then, with one out in the bottom of the second, the sky opened up and a 15-minute rain delay ensued. That gave Magicians coach Johnny Gold all the time he needed to kick his team into gear.
“The rain definitely helped us, there’s no question,” Gold said. “I think we came out a little nervous because the past three years we’ve lost in the first round. Then during the rain delay, I told them that we were playing scared and we simply can’t do that. Then they started to loosen up and play better. It was a great turnaround.”
Marblehead came out of the delay, tied the game and went on earn a 5-2 victory to earn its first tournament win in more than three years.
“This really meant a lot to get the monkey off our backs,” Gold said. “We always have good teams but never seem to do well when it comes to this time of year, so to put together a good game like this and get a win was great.”
Charlotte Plakans, as has been the case much of the season, led the way for Marblehead at the plate and in the circle. She tossed a complete game, giving up two runs on nine hits with eight strikeouts. In the batter’s box she went 2-for-3 with two RBI, including the game-tying RBI in both the bottom of the third and fifth innings. Also knocking RBI for the Magicians were Mercedez Pelletier (1-for-4), Sammi Treff (1-for-3) and Emma Ferante (2-for-3).
Melrose jumped ahead right away in the top of the first inning. The Red Raiders put runners on first and second with back-to-back singles, then Sam Farrell stepped in and hit the first pitch she saw into right-centerfield for an RBI single to go up 1-0.
Marblehead threatened in the bottom of the first with runners on second and third, but couldn’t push any runs across.
After the rain delay, things settled down for the Magicians. Plakans fell into a rhythm in the circle, retiring 12 of the next 14 batters she faced to keep the game close. She also tied the game up at 1-1 in the bottom of the third with an RBI groundout after Sophie Vener (1-for-4) hit a one-out triple.
But Melrose didn’t give up. The Red Raiders struck back in the top of the fourth inning after Farrell led with a double. After Colette Skinner moved the runner to third with a groundout, Jill Stone put the ball in play to force Marblehead to make a play at the plate. The Magicians couldn’t, as Stone beat the throw and put Melrose up 2-1.
But then came the bottom of the fifth. Ferante led off with a single and advanced to second on a passed ball. After a groundout moved her over to third, Plakans stepped in and once again tied the game, this time with an RBI single. Plakans advanced to second on the throw from the outfield, setting things up for Treff. She didn’t disappoint, knocking an RBI single to give Marblehead a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Melrose wasn’t done threatening, however, as the Red Raiders loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the sixth. Plakans struck out the next batter, then freshman catcher Jolie Quintana made a big play to get an out at home to keep the lead. Plakans forced a flyout on the next batter to escape the inning with the lead.
“Stopping them with the bases loaded was a huge point in the game,” said Gold. “Charlotte pitched great as always, and what a play by Jolie at the plate. To play as well as she did as a freshman, you know she’s going to be a great player.”
Marblehead added two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth on RBI from Ferante and Pelletier to make it 5-2, then Plakans retired the side in the seventh for the win.
Gold and the Magicians (17-2) plan to continue their run further in the state tournament. Next up will be an unfamiliar foe in No. 5 Whittier Tech (18-3). While the game is currently scheduled for Sunday, that would conflict with Marblehead’s graduation ceremony the same day so the game will likely be played Monday (TBA).
“I think now that we’ve gotten the nerves out of our system it will be a little easier,” said Gold. “Not to say it’s easy by any means, but I think now the girls will be looser from the get-go and try to keep this thing rolling.”