HARWICH – It's been a winning run so far for the Monomoy girls softball team, though not without a little worry thrown in for good measure. The Sharks defeated Wareham 3-2 in the first round and Bellingham 2-0 in the quarterfinals.
The Wareham Vikings gave the Sharks pause on June 6 when they struck first in the first round game of the MIAA Div. 3 South Sectional playoffs, but Monomoy remained determined and clawed its way back to an extra-innings win.
Sam Barr had the first hit of the game, but no runs happened for the Sharks through a scoreless first and second inning. In the third, the Vikings pounced, plating two runs, but a double from Erica Slade allowed Caroline DiGiovanni and Maddie Crossen to make it home and tie the game at 2-2 after three.
From then on the game remained scoreless as Monomoy pitcher Mollie Charest kept adding on the strikeouts, finishing with 14 in total. Meanwhile, catcher DiGiovanni made a stellar grab at the top of the seventh to put a stop to a threat from the Vikings, paving the way for a big play in the eighth.
After Charest reached on an error to kick off the inning, Julie Slade offered up a beautiful bunt that advanced courtesy runner Devinne Wilson into scoring position. A grounder from Mackenzie Cardillo then led to a major error on Wareham's part that allowed Wilson to race home for the win.
While Monomoy head coach Stacy Yarnall was pleased that her team pulled off a victory, she was concerned by the level of play by the No. 1 seed Sharks against the No. 16 seed Vikings.
“We just had a conversation about the fact that it's going to get more and more difficult as the tournament progresses,” Yarnall said after the game. “And these little errors and not letting them earn their spots on the bases is going to come back and get us. Obviously helping ourselves out offensively and defensively is something we definitely need to step up before Sunday.”
Yarnall gave high praise to Erica Slade for her clutch performance in the game, noting that the eighth-grader went 2-for-3 against the Vikings. Barr and Crossen each went 2-for-4.
“She's never played in a tournament game before, and gets base hit after base hit,” Yarnall said. “And Mollie did an awesome job on the mound, and Caroline had some big outs behind the plate. It just needs to be tightened up all around before we move into Sunday.”
Sunday saw a rejuvenated Shark squad come up to bat against Bellingham en route to a 2-0 win in the quarterfinals. Monomoy struck first in the outing, playing with noticeably heightened energy and awareness that proved a stark contrast to last year's game against the same team.
Where last season saw the Sharks struggle to plate a run before the game went into extra innings, the 2019 match saw Monomoy make its way onto the scoreboard early, then work tirelessly to maintain their edge.
Crossen landed on first after a successful bunt in the bottom of the first, setting up an ideal situation for Barr, who slammed a pitch down the third base line, racing around the bases as the ball bounced along the grass at Potter's Field. The momentum was enough to bring Crossen home, putting Monomoy ahead 1-0.
But the Sharks weren't finished making a statement just yet. A grounder from Charest forced Bellingham to make the throw to first rather than home, with Barr capitalizing on the moment and blazing home, sliding her hand onto home plate just below the Bellingham catcher's glove, watching as the home plate umpire deemed her safe, her team now holding a 2-0 edge.
From that point it was all about solid defense since Bellingham pitcher Kasey MacGowan stepped up her game and held Monomoy scoreless for the game's remainder. MacGowan and Charest engaged in a silent duel, with Bellingham holding out a sliver of hope in the fifth when one runner made it past first on one of Monomoy's only errors, but Charest doubled down and responded by striking out the Blackhawks' Kimberly Rodriguez, then forced a ground out with runners on second and third to end the inning.
In seven innings, Charest only gave up two hits, one walk, and a hit-by-pitch, finishing the game with 10 strikeouts and no runs.
Yarnall said the difference between the Wareham game and the Bellingham contest was noteworthy.
“That was awesome,” said Yarnall. “Probably the best game we've played. An all-around great game. In the batter's box we were so aggressive, a completely different team than against Wareham. They stepped up to the challenge.”
Yarnall said choosing a highlight from such a well-played outing, in which DiGiovanni and Mackenzie Cardillo both went 2-for-3 at the plate, was difficult.
“We scored two runs in the first inning and then we didn't,” she said. “We left a lot of runners on base, which is probably the only negative. But other than that, being aggressive in the batter's box and not letting anything faze them was key.”
Yarnall also switched up her batting lineup, which she felt helped.
“I took a look at batting averages and switched it up,” Yarnall said. “And Caroline is so fast that putting her at No. 9, she could put a bunt down, but the way that Erica has been making contact these past few games has been changing things up.”
She also gave a nod to Audrey Smith with a key hit, and Charest for her prowess on the pitcher's mound.
“Mollie pitched a heck of a game,” Yarnall said. “You could tell she was firing it in there, especially when she was getting up in the count, and that last inning she was throwing everything she had.”
Shoutouts aside, Yarnall felt her whole team contributed to the win in some way.
“I think everybody overall did a great job,” Courtney had some great plays at third, my outfield, Erica came into play when we needed it, and overall everybody did a great job. I couldn't be happier. Everybody was on their toes and ready to play today.”
The Sharks were scheduled to head to Taunton to face Abington in the Div. 3 semifinals Tuesday, but the game was postponed to June 12 due to inclement weather, and will now be played at Silver Lake High School in Kingston at 4 p.m. Follow @ChroniKat on Twitter for updates.