WORCESTER — Despite playing with a target on its back all season, the Grafton softball team managed to defend its Division 2 state title with a 2-1 win over Burlington at Worcester State’s Rockwood Field on Saturday.
“It’s amazing,” said Grafton coach John Gemme. “You get the first one and you say, ‘Wow that’s unbelievable,’ because a lot of things had to go right and to get a second one . . . that’s a lot harder, a lot more work.
“This team, I think halfway through the year developed its own identity. It wasn’t that they were trying to be like last year’s team anymore, they had their own thing going.”
Grafton junior righthander Kendal Roy, who was the winning pitcher in the Indians’ 1-0 decision over Abington in the state final a season ago, once again shined, scattering four hits and striking out 12 without issuing a walk.
“Kendal did a great job keeping the ball away from them because they had some good hitters,” said Gemme. “They had some good opportunities and she came up with some big strikeouts at big times. It’s nice to have [a player with] the kind of poise that she has.”
For the second time in three years, Burlington finished its season with a one-run loss in the state final. The Red Devils (22-4) fell in the 2011 state championship, 4-3, to Wahconah Regional.
“It’s so heartbreaking,” said Burlington coach Kristen Mahoney. “Our seniors have been our leaders this year and I just really wish we could have pulled it out for them. They have done a phenomenal job for us and losing them is going to be tough.”
Senior righthander Kelly McCarthy held the Indians (24-2) to eight hits, while striking out five in six innings.
“I think she was spectacular today,” said Mahoney. “We know that she doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, but she is tough to get hits off of. Usually, if she gives up hits, it’s those singles and they were able to get a single, a stolen base, and then, get that timely hit.”
The Indians took the lead in the bottom of the second inning, after Makayla Ritzie (1 for 2, run) drew a two-out walk, stole second, and then scored on a single up the middle by Marissa Ruggiero (1 for 2, RBI).
Roy (1 for 3, RBI) helped her own cause in the third, knocking in the eventual winning run with a two-out line-drive single to left.
The Red Devils cut the lead in half in the sixth inning after April Adams (1 for 3, triple) reached on an error, stole second, advanced to third on a wild throw from the catcher, and then scored on a Haley Currie (1 for 2, RBI) sacrifice fly to right field.
Roy, who allowed just one Red Devils hit in her final three innings of work, set the side down in order in the top of the seventh, striking out the first two batters.
“We were definitely more relaxed this year because we’ve been here,” Roy said. “It’s the state championship game, there’s nothing after this, we’re leaving it all out there. I think I just went in nice and relaxed and confident in my defense and my hitting. I knew every single girl wanted it just as much as I did.”