The Newburyport softball team had not won a tournament game since 2013 and had not hosted one since 2011.
Trailing, 6-2, after four innings against No. 18 East Bridgewater on Tuesday, the No. 15 Clippers did not want to squander an opportunity they had worked so hard for.
Junior shortstop Emma Keefe blasted a single through the middle, scoring freshman Cassidy Bolcome in walkoff fashion as Newburyport prevailed, 7-6, in the first round of the Division 3 tournament.
With one out in the seventh, Bolcome swatted a single to right field and junior Emily Meleedy worked a walk, bringing a runner into scoring position for Keefe, who hit .551 during the regular season. Taking the first pitch, Keefe stepped up to the plate with quiet confidence and sealed the deal.
“It was a little nerve-racking,” said Keefe. “I knew I just had to slash the ball down, get it up the middle, and score that one run to seal the deal.
“I technically really like the high and outside ones, which people don’t like. I really looked for that. She ended up giving me an inside, low. It was the total opposite. I just had to drive it down, I just knew that I had to get it into the ground and not pop it up.”
In the top of the seventh, Keefe turned a nifty double play. The rangy shortstop nabbed a line drive and fired to first to end the inning.
“She’s been great all year,” said seventh-year Newburyport coach Bob Gillespie. “She’s a really, really good player. She never gets frazzled. She’s always in the moment. She plays hard at shortstop, throws the ball hard, plays the game hard. She’s a dirt dog — she’s my dirt dog. She goes out there and dives all over the place.”
The Clippers (13-8) climbed back into the game with a three-run fifth inning and added a run in the sixth to even the contest. A positive, can-do attitude permeated throughout the home dugout.
Constant cheering of teammates echoed across the field. Junior catcher Grace Habib and Meleedy patted each other on the back after every inning, regardless of the situation. Meleedy and Keefe went through intricate handshakes prior to each inning, smiling ear-to-ear.
Trusting each other to make enough plays to win, the Clippers enjoy every second on the field with one another.
“It’s all positivity, the whole game,” said Meleedy. “Without it, we don’t win. We have to be positive 24/7. If a person makes a mistake, we pat them on the back and get right back out there.”
In what Gillespie called “A spectacular comeback”, Meleedy settled down, getting ahead of hitters and limiting hard contact as the game wore on.
“Overall, Emily did a great job for us,” said Gillespie. “She’s been a standout pitcher for us all year. She works hard, she’s a very good fielder, just a big time player and an excellent hitter.”
The Clippers travel to face second-seeded Dighton-Rehoboth (17-4) in the second round on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Immediately after the contest, the Clippers made sure to soak in the moment.
“I was trembling,” said Keefe. “[This group has] never made it past the first round. It was an awesome moment to be a part of.”
Division 1 State
Arlington 5, Reading 0 — Soline Fisher earned the win, punching out 13 batters in the one-hit shutout for the No. 16 Spy Ponders (14-7) in a first-round win. Nora Vartanian had two hits and an RBI, and Zoe DiAngelis homered. Arlington will travel to Central Catholic on Wednesday at 4.
King Philip 3, Needham 1 — Freshman standout McCoy Walsh punched out 15 as the second-seeded Warriors (21-2) secured a first-round victory over No. 31 Needham. KP will host Chelmsford Wednesday.
Division 2 State
Silver Lake 15, Oliver Ames 2 — Delaney Moquin’s two-run homer capped a runaway first-round win for the eighth-seeded Lakers (19-2) over No. 25 Oliver Ames. Silver Lake will host No. 9 Grafton Thursday at 3:30.
Wakefield 12, Wilmington 11 — Kathryn Sliski’s walk brought home the winning run for the No. 16 Warriors (12-9) against No. 17 Wilmington in the first round. Paige Butland hammered three home runs and Meredith Morris hit a bases-clearing double in the sixth to tie the game at six. Wakefield will visit top-seeded Westfield on Wednesday.
Division 3 State
St. Mary’s 12, Sturgis East 0 — The top-seeded Spartans (20-1) coasted to a first-round win over No. 33 Sturgis East behind a one-hit, 10-strikeout performance from Anna Fringuelli. Brooke Moloney, Michaela Walker, and Gabriella Marichal each tapped two hits. St. Mary’s will host No. 17 Dedham Wednesday.
Division 4 State
Amesbury 1, Millbury 0 — Junior Isabelle Levasseur lifted the seventh-seeded Red Hawks (17-4) over No. 10 Millbury, striking out 14 in the second-round victory.
Tyngsborough 7, Abington 0 — Kiley Hogan struck out 11, Izzie Shaffer had a home run and two RBIs, and Elizabeth Sillipp added a two-run homer, propelling the fourth-seeded Tigers (15-4) to a second-round victory over No. 13 Abington.
Cam Kerry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.