The Cheverus and McAuley softball teams saw their seasons come to an end within a few minutes of each other Friday afternoon in the quarterfinal round of the Western Class A playoffs.
The Stags, seeded fourth, fell behind early and couldn’t respond in a 5-2 loss to No. 5 Thornton Academy.
The seventh-ranked Lions did just the opposite, stunning No. 2 South Portland with three early runs, but the Red Riots rallied and fought off a late Lions’ rally to win, 6-4.
Cheverus went 12-4 for the second year in a row and earned the No. 4 seed for the playoffs. The Stags were hoping to avenge a 9-8 loss at Thornton Academy on May 17, but found themselves way behind before they even grabbed a bat.
The Golden Trojans loaded the bases against Cheverus senior ace Theresa Hendrix with one out in the top of the first inning, but Hendrix appeared primed to escape unscathed after a strikeout. However, a double into the left-centerfield gap by catcher Megan Fifield scored two runs, a bloop single to left by third baseman Vanessa McCrum plated two more and a throwing error made it a 5-0 game.
“It was the story of our season right there, one bad inning,” said Cheverus coach Amy McMullin. “The first inning showed we weren’t all there. (Getting an early lead is) what you want to do as a road team.”
Hendrix led off the bottom of the inning with a walk, was sacrificed to second, stole third and scampered home after a throwing error. After senior shortstop Audrey Grinnell walked with one out, junior catcher Jasymn Welch looked to cut into the deficit even further, but her blast to the leftfield fence was snared, snow-cone style, by Kristin DuRoss (no earned runs, one hit, four walks, six strikeouts), ending the Stags’ offensive output for several innings.
While Hendrix settled down and didn’t allow another run, Cheverus didn’t manage its first hit off Julia Geaumont until the fifth. With two outs, Hendrix reached on an error and moved to second on a wild pitch. Senior third baseman Anna Snook then ripped a single to left, bringing Hendrix home to make it 5-2.
Grinnell flew to left to end the inning and the Stags went down in order in the sixth and seventh (the game ended with Hendrix on deck), ending their season at 12-5.
“Unfortunately, we did make any adjustments,” said McMullin. “We knew (Geaumont) was going to pitch outside and we didn’t adjust. That’s our own fault. She pitched a great game. Offensively, we’ve been great all season. I don’t know what it is. We had two runs off one hit. We just needed one girl to come through to get back to Theresa. She’s such a threat. Unfortunately, the bottom of our order didn’t come through today.”
Hendrix bowed out by allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits, three walks, a hit batter and two wild pitches. She fanned 10.
Hendrix, Snook and Grinnell, along with Maggie Corrigan, Lauren DuBois, Maggie Grindatti and Keturah Smith will depart. They helped put the Stags on the map.
“The seniors have been huge,” McMullin said. “They set a very high standard and did wonderful things. I think the rest of the league is relieved that we’re out (of the tournament).”
Cheverus will be young in 2011, but should remain a contender.
“We’ll be rebuilding,” McMullin said. “We have five freshmen up right now. They know where we need to be. They just need to work in the offseason.”
A season to remember
While Cheverus was on the short list of favorites entering the season, McAuley was on no one’s radar.
The Lions soon turned heads under new coach Robbie Ferrante, stunning visiting Cheverus in the season opener, 13-12, after a nine-run bottom of the seventh inning, and won 10 of their first 11 games en route to an 11-5 mark and the No. 7 seed. McAuley lost at South Portland in the finale, 5-2.
The teams had no prior playoff history.
The Lions hinted at an epic upset when they took a 3-0 lead behind a run-scoring double from junior Kayla Daigle, an RBI single by sophomore Shelby Bryant (who had two hits on the day) and an error.
But the veteran and poised Red Riots rallied for two runs in the third, two in the fifth and two in the sixth. Undaunted, McAuley pushed across a run in the seventh and put the tying runs in scoring position, but South Portland junior ace Alexis Bogdanovich struck out the final hitter to preserve the 6-4 victory, ending the Lions’ season at 11-6 (their finest mark ever).
“We put a scare into them, but we couldn’t finish,” said Ferrante. “It was a battle. We felt pretty good after playing them close eight days earlier. They got key hits and Alexis buckled down.”
McAuley loses only one senior (Alina Verrillo) and will be right in the thick of things next spring.
“I’m very, very happy with the season,” Ferrante said. “At least we have a direction now. It bodes well. We won’t be able to sneak up on anyone next year though.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org