WORCESTER - A coach has to know when to push the right buttons to win a state championship and when not to. Grafton softball coach John Gemme did the latter Saturday, and the decision helped lift the Indians to a 1-0 win over Abington to capture the Division 2 state championship at Worcester State.
With two outs in the fifth inning of a scoreless game, Grafton had a runner at second and No. 9 hitter Amanda Voellings coming to bat.
“She hadn’t been hitting overly well and I thought about hitting for her, but I said to myself, ‘No, I’m going to let her hit,’ and bang she came through,’’ said Gemme, who decided to trust his instincts instead.
Voellings drove the ball into right field, sending sophomore Kate Cardoza home from second with the game’s only run.
“They got a piece of one and it was enough to win the game,’’ said Abington coach Ernie Ortega. “Today they were one run better than us.’’
The win is the first state title in program history for Grafton and the first for Gemme, who has coached the Indians for 13 years.
Both pitchers exchanged zeros on the scoreboard throughout the contest, matching each other pitch for pitch. Grafton sophomore ace Kendall Roy was able to keep runners off base and thus prevent Abington from getting its small-ball game going.
“We knew they were a bunting team that could hit, too,’’ said Roy. “Once I got through the first time of the order I got into a rhythm.’’
The Green Wave’s best threat came in the second, but Roy got a strikeout and a popup, stranding runners at second and third.
In the third, Roy got another of her six strikeouts to end the inning and leave Alicia Reid at third base.
“She just kept us off our game today,’’ said Ortega.
Abington senior ace Kelly Norton was equal to the task, leaving runners in scoring position in the first and third. “She made pitches when she had to and got us out of some jams,’’ said Ortega. “She is Abington softball and had such a great career.’’
Grafton broke through in the fifth, manufacturing the lone run. Cardoza led off the inning with an infield single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Nikki Murphy for the second out, setting the stage for Voellings’s heroics.
Abington couldn’t muster any offense after the early threats as Roy retired 13 of the final 14 batters she faced.
“She did a nice job and kept the ball where she needed it,’’ said Gemme. “We made some big plays behind her too.’’
Grafton will be losing only two seniors this year and is expected to be a force against next season.