LOWELL — In practice, the Gloucester softball team has been mentally preparing to play extra inning games in the tournament.
Locked in a 6-6 game after seven innings of Saturday’s Division 2 North final against top-seeded Triton Regional, the Fishermen broke away, and more, with a monstrous eight-run run eighth at Martin Field to capture their first sectional title with a 14-6 victory. It was the program’s first North final appearance since 2006.
“I never actually thought that it would happen like that, and it did,” said junior Madison Machado, who was 5 for 5 with three runs, two RBIs — including two hits and a run in the eighth inning. “We pulled it together. We did what we had to do.”
Triton (19-2) took an early 1-0 lead in the first before Machado put the Fishermen (20-3) on the board, scoring on a passed ball after a triple.
After scoring the Vikings’ initial run after a stand-up triple in the first, freshman Mia Berardino (2 for 4, run) came up big for Triton again, knocking in Fay Paicos (3 for 4, 2 runs, RBI, double) to tie the game, 6-6, with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
Gloucester pushed ahead the go-ahead run quickly in the eighth. Jenna Hoofnagle (2 for 4, two runs) led off with a single. Her pinch runner, Isabelle Reiniger, made her way around the bases and scored when Natalie Aiello reached on a fielder’s choice.
“I said, ‘Girls, nothing in life comes easy. This isn’t either,’ ” said Gloucester coach John Nicastro. “They went out and shut them down and brought them in again.”
Gloucester will play South champion Norton in a Division 2 state semifinal.