WORCESTER — Milford freshman Jill Powers had struggled her first two at-bats against Agawam hurler Allison Wheeler. Before her third at-bat in the bottom of the sixth, Milford coach Brian Macchi had a chat with her about making adjustments.
Her new approach paid off as she ripped a double to the center-field warning track to score Alexandra Piergustavo and lead Milford to its second consecutive Division 1 state championship, a 1-0 victory over Agawam.
“I was reaching in all my at-bats and I’ve been doing it all year,” said Powers. “[Coach Macchi] told me to focus on that one aspect of hitting and to stay back and go right to it and that’s what I did. I was in shock after.”
Macchi said, “It’s funny the inning before she asked me, ‘Am I doing it again?’ and I said, ‘Yes you’ve been doing it since Day 1 at practice. Can you just try and make the adjustment? And she did at the right time. It was the biggest hit of her life.”
Gatorade Player of the Year Shannon Smith struck out the side to seal the victory, a fitting end to her outstanding career. Smith finished with 13 strikeouts, extending her career total and state record to 1,219.
Smith faced the heart of the Brownies’ lineup in the seventh.
“That’s exactly who they wanted up, three, four, five,” she said. “I knew they were going to be amped and trying to hit a home run because that’s what you try and do in that situation. I kept pitching my game, made sure the team stayed level-headed and focused for three outs and then start the celebration.”
Agawam threatened in the first when Faith Rheault singled to right and Reilly Weiners walked. But Smith got out of the jam with two strikeouts and a grounder back to her.
The Scarlet Hawks came close to scoring in the second but senior third baseman Caroline Fairbanks (2 for 3) was thrown out at the plate on a relay from center fielder Paige Circosta to shortstop Danielle Stratton to Weiners. Milford also left runners stranded in the fourth and fifth innings.
The Kentucky-bound Smith finished the year 25-1 with a 0.04 ERA.
“She’s had an outstanding career, said Macchi of Smith. “To watch her work day in and day out she wanted to cap it off with a win. It cements her legacy. She’s been an outstanding student-athlete to coach and it’s been an honor to watch her at. I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do at Kentucky.”
Smith added, “There was really no other way I wanted to finish it than a win. This is the cherry on top for my career. It’s been a great ride here at Milford.”