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A year ago, the McAuley softball team shot out of the gate and stunned the local softball “experts” by becoming the feel-good story of the season.
Those Lions won a program-record 11 games and made it to the playoffs for the first time in five years, earning Shelby Bryant (then a sophomore) Spring Athlete of the Year and first-year head man Robbie Ferrante Coach of the Year honors.
Now, in 2011, it appears McAuley is up to its old tricks, even though the Lions aren’t sneaking up on anyone.
“So far, so good, but with me, the jury’s still out,” said Ferrante.
The Lions had a dramatic win in their opener for the second year in a row, rallying from a 3-1 fifth inning deficit to down visiting Bonny Eagle, 4-3. Sophomore catcher Sam Schildroth had three hits, including a double and the game-tying two-run single. Bryant then delivered the game-winner, a single. Freshman hurler Sam Libby earned her first varsity victory after allowing fanning 11.
“It was a nice comeback win,” said Ferrante. “Libby’s pretty good. Bonny Eagle made a big error.”
McAuley made the long trip to Sanford Thursday and even warmed up before the game was rained out (and moved to Tuesday).
Saturday, the Lions paid a visit to Cheverus and downed the Stags for the second year in a row.
While last year, McAuley had to score nine runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat their rival, 13-12, this time, the Lions broke it open earlier, snapping a 1-1 tie with six runs in the fifth inning and adding two more in the sixth for a 9-1 triumph.
Sophomore Gabby Townsend allowed just two hits to earn the win. Offensively, junior Molly Mack had four RBI, Libby doubled and tripled, Bryant tripled and Townsend had a pair of singles and drove in a run.
“We put five or six hits together and broke the game open,” Ferrante said. “Townsend pitched well. We’re younger this year, so we’re expecting a lot from the sophomores. Some freshmen have already stepped up.”
McAuley was home with Kennebunk Monday, had the makeup game Tuesday at Sanford, visits Deering Wednesday and goes to Windham Friday.
The Lions won’t see the premier teams in Western Class A until later in the month. McAuley is home against Thornton Academy May 20, plays at Scarborough May 23, hosts Biddeford May 25 and visits defending state champion South Portland in the regular season finale May 31.
“We need to beat the teams we’re supposed to beat,” said Ferrante. “We have to put wins together and get confidence. I think we can be as competitive as we were last year.”
The other city softball teams haven’t had as much success.
Cheverus, which was one of the top teams in the region in 2010, has been up-and-down so far this spring.
The Stags fell at Sanford in the their opener, 4-1, last Monday. Freshman Brittany Bell only gave up five hits, but suffered the loss. Wednesday, Cheverus lost, 9-4, to visiting Kennebunk, despite two hits apiece from sophomores Katie Roy and Staci Swallow. The Stags got in the win column Friday when they rallied past host Deering, 10-8. Down 8-4 in the top of the seventh, Cheverus came alive for six runs. Senior Jasmyn Welch had a key three-run double. Saturday, the Lions lost, 9-1, at home to McAuley, despite a Welch home run and a steady performance on the mound from sophomore Izzi Grasso.
The Stags hosted Westbrook Monday, go to Windham Wednesday and welcome Noble Friday. Next Monday, they’re at Marshwood.
Deering was a 10-0 loser at Biddeford in its first game, but last Monday, the Rams got in the win column with a 14-6 home triumph over Portland. Junior Caley Presby got things started with a three-run home run in the first inning, one of her three hits. Senior shortstop Jen Lynch (three hits, three runs scored, three RBI) hit a two-run triple in a four-run third and the Rams put it away with six runs in the sixth. Senior Tina Merrill ended with two hits, three runs and two RBI. Deering managed just two hits in a 10-0 loss at defending state champion South Portland Wednesday, then let a four-run seventh inning lead slip away Friday in a 10-8 home loss to Cheverus. In that one, Presby had a pair of hits and drove in three. Junior Sara Brink had three hits and two RBI. Lynch and junior Nicole Mason also rapped three hits.
Deering went to Bonny Eagle Monday, hosts McAuley Wednesday, plays at Sanford Friday and welcomes Kennebunk in a Battle of the Rams Monday of next week.
Portland is still seeking its first win. The Bulldogs lost their opener, 14-6, at Deering, despite ample opportunities with runners on base. Freshman Kaitlin Rutherford had a pair of hits. Last Wednesday, Portland fell, 9-6, at home to Westbrook, despite a home run from sophomore Leanne Reichert. Friday, the Bulldogs dropped to 0-3 after a 13-2 loss at Windham. Senior Becca Smith and sophomore Sydney Levesque had two hits each in that one.
Portland was home with Noble Monday, goes to Marshwood Wednesday, plays host to Gorham Friday and visits Massabesic next Monday.
Cheverus senior Lexi Hilton stretches to make the putout just before McAuley freshman Heather Chapman can reach first base.
Cheverus senior Jasmyn Welch is greeted at the plate by teammates after slugging a solo home run for her team’s lone run Saturday.
McAuley freshman Sam Libby rounds second base and heads for third after belting a triple during Saturday afternoon’s game against Cheverus.
Cheverus sophomore Izzi Grasso releases a pitch.
McAuley sophomore pitcher Gabby Townsend prepares to confound Cheverus Saturday afternoon. Townsend led the Lions to their second win in a row, 9-1.
More photos below.