PORTLAND—The McAuley softball team has become more than just a feel-good story.
The Lions appear to be on the verge of becoming a veritable powerhouse.
Monday afternoon, at Larry K. Mahaney Field, McAuley scored six runs in the first inning, a mind-boggling 16 more in the second and cruised to a 25-0 (five inning) triumph over visiting Windham thanks to a balanced, bruising offensive attack and stellar pitching from freshman Gabby Townsend and junior Jen Field.
McAuley, which wasn’t even considered a contender when the season began, is now a stunning 6-1.
“I thought the key to it was the first inning,” said first-year coach Robbie Ferrante. “We jumped on them with six. Everything just snowballed from there.”
The Lions won just four times a year ago and weren’t expected to win many more in 2010, but opened the year with a stunning 13-12, come-from-behind victory over visiting rival Cheverus, scoring nine times in their final at-bat.
“It felt good to come back against Cheverus,” said senior third baseman Allina Verrillo. “It gave us a nice start on our season.”
McAuley then downed Bonny Eagle (5-0) and Sanford (4-3), fell by a run at Kennebunk (4-3), but cruised to a first mercy-rule win in a long, long time (13-1, in five innings, over rival Deering) and blanked host Westbrook, 9-0.
Monday, against a Windham squad that entered 1-6 after playing several of the league’s top teams, the Lions quickly ended all drama.
After Townsend set the Eagles down in order in the top of the first (fanning the first two hitters), sophomore first baseman Shelby Bryant set the offensive tone with an infield single. Bryant stole second and came home for the only run McAuley would need when Townsend pounded a double to deep right-center. Freshman catcher Amber Libby followed with an RBI double and came home on an RBI groundout from freshman shortstop Sam Shildroth to make it 3-0.
The Lions were just getting started.
After junior second baseman Kayla Daigle beat out an infield single and Field reached on an error, which chased Daigle home, Verrillo reached out and crushed a pitch to deep rightfield. Verrillo circled the bases for a home run and it was 6-0.
“It was a hitting day,” Verrillo said. “I love it. It hit the bat and I was like, ‘Oh yeah!'”
Townsend promptly set the Eagles down in order in the top of the second and McAuley came up for might have been the most productive inning in program history.
Bryant again got it started, getting hit by a pitch. After Bryant stole second, Townsend sent another deep drive to right-center and this time rounded the bases for an 8-0 lead. With one out, Shildroth singled, Daigle walked and Field singled to make it 9-0. Verrillo reached on an error at third, chasing home the 10th and 11th runs. After a walk and wild pitch, freshman rightfielder Mary Redmond singled home two more for a 13-0 advantage.
An infield single and walk loaded the bases. Libby reached on an error to make it 14-0. Shildroth singled to center for two more and it was 16-0. An error reloaded the bases and Field had an RBI single and Verrillo and junior Nona Gillis both walked for an 19-0 advantage. After a pitching change, a walk to Redmond, a Bryant single and an error made it a 22-0 game.
“We’ve done really well this season,” Townsend said. “We’ve gotten the bat on the ball. Once we started hitting, it just kept going.”
Shellshocked, Windham went down meekly in the third, managing its first and only hit (a bloop single) in the process. In the bottom half, Verrillo had an RBI single and Bryant added an RBI hit to make it 24-0.
In the top of the fourth, Field replaced Townsend (one hit and seven strikeouts in her three innings) and set the side down in the order. In the bottom half, an error plated the 25th run. Field (one K in two hitless innings) returned to the hill and worked around an error to set down the side, putting an end to one of the more lopsided contests in recent memory.
“This is such a different season from the last three years,” Verrillo said. “I think it’s a mentality. We have different people, different chemistry. It’s working out. I love the pitchers. I love the hitters. I love it all.”
The Lions wound up with 19 hits. Bryant had four. Field and Shildroth both ripped three. Libby, Townsend and Verrillo all had a pair.
“We get more confidence everytime we play, which is good,” Ferrante added. “They’ve all hit pretty well. The pitching will keep us in games. I still want to get better defensively.”
McAuley goes to Noble Wednesday and plays host to Marshwood Friday. The Lions face a huge stretch beginning May 21 when they go to Thornton Academy, host defending state champion Scarborough, play at Biddeford and after meeting Portland (Ferrante’s former team) in the home finale, close at powerhouse South Portland.
By then, McAuley could very well be priming for its first playoff berth in five seasons.
“I said if we won eight, I’d be ecstatic,” Ferrante said. “The first game made them believe a little bit.”
“We hope to keep winning,” Townsend added. “I think we’ll do well. Scarborough and South Portland are probably the toughest games we’ll play, but I think we can keep it up.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
McAuley senior Allina Verrillo races toward third during her first inning home run Monday.
Lions speedy sophomore Shelby Bryant steals second base Monday during her team’s 25-0, five inning win over Windham.
McAuley junior Jen Field slides home for one of the Lions’ 25 runs Monday afternoon.
More photos below.