Melissa Light had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee last July.
And at times, both during the offseason and in the first few weeks of this season, coach John Furlong wondered how effective she would be as his starting third baseman for the Malden High girls’ softball team.
But in the eighth inning of a tie game in the Division 1 North final against Acton-Boxborough, wearing her thigh-high leg brace, Light lined a shot to right field that scored Emily Moran for a 3-2 win. And then in the bottom of the ninth inning of the state semifinals against Bridgewater-Raynham, she rapped a ball back to that mound that was mishandled, allowing Moran once again to score the winning run in a 5-4 victory.
“She rehabbed her knee in around seventh months and got cleared three weeks before the season started,” said Furlong.
“When she came through for us when we needed it, the smile on her face was priceless. Every kid in the dugout was pulling for her because she struggled for the most part of the season, but talk about coming up big when you need it. She’s a tremendously hard worker.”
Light, who tore her ACL playing basketball as a sophomore, bounced back to hit .339 as a junior in the Golden Tornadoes’ drive to the state championship game, a 1-0 loss to unbeaten Milford.
Eight other storylines emerged during recent MIAA baseball and softball tournaments:
Going the distance
Three days after he threw 107 pitches in a 5-2 win over Northeast Regional for the Division 4 North title, Georgetown’s Ryan Browner responded with another 122 in the state final against Harwich, propelling the Royals to an 11-1 victory and their first championship.
Browner’s 229-pitch count in three days capped off an illustrious career for the senior ace, who is headed to the University of Southern Maine this fall. His 31 wins, capped by a state title, prompted Georgetown coach Justin Spurr to say: “Ryan Browner has to go down as the best [in Georgetown history]. He is the only state champion of the big names.’’
A dominant run for Dracut
The Dracut girls’ softball squad made one of the deepest runs in program history before falling to Abington in the Division 2 state semifinals, 5-4. The Middies outscored their foes 34-6 in the postseason, thanks to the dazzling work in the circle of junior Lauren Ramirez, who blanked Wakefield (first round), Arlington Catholic (quarterfinals), and Winchester (North final), adding to her total of seven shutouts during the regular season. She finished the season 18-1 with 211 strikeouts for Dracut, which ripped off 20 consecutive wins after a 6-0 loss to Lowell on April 11.
Winthrop upsets L-C
The 22d seed in the Division 3 North bracket with an 8-12 record, the Winthrop girls faced a tall task against 11th-seeded Lowell Catholic (13-7) in the prelims. The matchup was scoreless through seven innings but in the top of the eighth, Liana Ferullo plated Kelly Swanson with the go-ahead run. Ferullo then came around with the second run on an error after sophomore Jen Adamson put the ball in play with two outs. Winthrop’s Alex Ferri fanned 14 in a complete game shutout before the Vikings fell to St. Mary’s of Lynn in the first round, 12-2.
No. 9 for North Reading is . . .
In the top of the seventh inning of the Division 3 North final against Lynnfield, the North Reading baseball squad sent Shane Driscoll up to the plate as a pinch-hitter, trailing 2-1. He was wearing No. 24, but on the umpire’s roster card he was listed as the second No. 9 for the Hornets. Was he an illegal substitution? Twenty minutes later, after a consultation between coaches and administrators, Driscoll was back at the plate, wearing No. 9 (offered up by teammate Blake Tamlyn-Hayden), and laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance pinch-runner Jonathan Gravallese, who scored the tying run. North Reading pulled out a 3-2 win in extra innings on its way to the state title.
Warnock a savior for Hornets
North Reading senior Ryley Warnock hurled a 3-2 complete game win against East Bridgewater in the Division 3 state semis. But in the state final against Mount Everett Regional, Ryan McAuliffe was in a jam in the third inning, with runners at first and third. Coach Frank Carey motioned to Warnock, his starting shortstop, to come on in relief. He delivered 4⅔ innings of two-run ball and also produced three hits and four RBIs at the plate to propel the Hornets to their first state title since 1974.
Lynn English pulls off win
At 10-10, Lynn English was the 21st seed in the Division 1 North baseball tourney. But behind the strong arm of junior ace Ben Bowden, the Bulldogs bounced No. 12 Waltham, 16-0 in the preliminary round. Up next: Northeastern Conference power Peabody, which had defeated English twice in the regular season. But Matt Burnham scattered seven hits in a 5-1 win over the fifth-seeded Tanners. The Bulldogs fell to Malden in the quarters, 4-0.
Latta, Tulley on target
The Lowell baseball team entered the Division 1 North tournament as the top seed. And in the first four games of the sectional, Virginia Tech recruit Matt Tulley and teammate Cam Latta yielded just four runs. Latta threw a complete game against Malden Catholic, striking out five and quieting the Lancers and power hitter Manny Powers in a 2-0 win. Tully matched his effort against Newton North for the North title, striking out nine and allowing one run on seven hits in a complete game 2-1 win. Lowell (21-5), which dedicated its season to former Red Raider Adam Keenan, lost to Xaverian Brothers, 3-2, in the state semis.
Amos was unforgettable
Kiara Amos put together a magnificent senior season for Malden. The Providence College recruit shut out Central Catholic 4-0 in the Division 1 North semis for her 14th shutout of the season. She then mowed down 13 Acton-Boxborough hitters on strikes to pitch the Golden Tornadoes to their first sectional title. In the state semis, Malden shocked Bridgewater-Raynham, 5-4, in nine innings with the help of Amos’ focus after giving up four quick runs. And in a thrilling state final against Milford, she went pitch for pitch with Kentucky recruit Shannon Smith (22 strikeouts) in a 1-0 nine-inning loss. She finished her senior year at 24-2 with 287 strikeouts, and a 0.457 earned run average, fired two no-hitters, and racked up 14 shutouts while batting .431. “There will never be a player like her to come through our program or our league ever again,” said Malden coach John Furlong.