NORTH EASTHAM – After his team missed out on the entire 2020 season due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Nauset softball coach Harold Pini wasn’t sure what to expect from the Warriors when they finally returned to the diamond.
Despite fielding a new lineup full of young players inexperienced at the varsity level, Nauset delivered in every aspect of the game during Friday’s season opener against visiting Dennis-Yarmouth.
Nauset’s defense looked as though it was in midseason form. Senior pitcher Hailey Richardson allowed just one hit and the offense came alive as the Warriors earned an 8-1 victory over the Dolphins.
“I’m just really excited,” Pini said. “We spent a lot of time on fielding work in practice and that paid off in the end. In the infield, the kids just played out of their minds today. Jillian Parrott was incredible at shortstop — the whole infield was tremendous.”
Parrott made multiple plays that were worthy of a highlight reel as she anchored the team’s infield, which acted as the final line of defense for many of the balls the Dolphins (0-1) were able to hit off of Richardson.
The right-handed pitcher nearly tossed a no-hitter, as the lone hit she allowed came in the final inning when Phoebe Holmes reached first base safely on an infield single in the top of the seventh. Holmes scored later in the inning on a grounder back to Richardson, who struck out seven batters and walked six in her complete-game effort.
“After two years, it felt really good to be out there,” said Richardson. “I had been working all week with my catcher and practicing.”
The connection between Richardson and Nauset senior catcher Cece Pekarcik was evident throughout the afternoon. The duo worked in unison and never appeared troubled by a Dolphins hitter.
“We’re really good at reading each other,” Pekarcik explained. “Having that understanding between us, I know how to help her out and she knows how to help me out.”
With Richardson dealing in the pitcher’s circle, the Warriors pulled away from the Dolphins with a couple of rallies at the plate.
Nauset first garnered a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Richardson scored on a passed ball after hitting a two-out single off D-Y starter Julia Hicks. Hicks managed to keep the Warriors at bay for the first three innings until the bottom of the fourth, when senior Christa Walsh led off the frame with a triple to left field.
“That felt really good,” said Walsh. “I had made a joke right before that — ‘I want to hit a home run this year’ — and then I went out and hit a triple.”
Walsh scored on a wild pitch to give Nauset a 2-0 lead, though Hicks rebounded to retire the next two batters she faced. More damage would come in the fifth, however, as the Warriors scored two runs in the inning before tacking on four more in the sixth.
In the fifth, Pekarcik plated sophomore Lili Hay with an RBI single and then scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-0. In the sixth, sophomore Ava Doyle brought junior Annabelle Morris and sophomore Kailey Davis home with a two-run single. Later in the frame, Pekarcik hit a two-out single into center that plated Doyle and Richardson to make it 8-0.
“I think everyone was just so excited to be back and we took advantage of that energy,” Pekarcik said after finishing 2 for 4 with three RBIs and a run scored. “We didn’t fixate on errors or striking out, we were just happy to be playing.”
When asked about her goals for the season, Pekarcik was quick to think about the next generation of Warriors.
“I just want girls to have fun and a good first impression of a high school varsity team because this is the first year for a lot of girls playing,” she said. “I think starting with this win after not playing in two years is going to set us off with some really good momentum and we’re going to keep that energy.”
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