A day after fierce winds battered Massachusetts, at many points it appeared that the MIAA Division 1 North Sectional softball brackets might receive a strong gust of something slightly unexpected in Lexington on Thursday.
However, the only bluster once all was said and done came from the remnants of the prior day’s storm as the 19th seeded Grey Ghosts of Westford Academy lost to the 14th seeded Lexington Minutemen , 4-3.
For the first half of the contest, it appeared that the Ghosts were in control and primed for the upset. Junior Alleana Brody retired seven of the first eight batters she faced, and the Academy was getting some key help at the plate as well. A double from Brody in the second drove in Shannon Donahue to put the Ghosts on the board, and another double in the third, this time from senior Amanda Szidat, brought home Emily Chateauneuf to give WA a 2-0 lead.
But the third proved to be the inning where the possibility of an upset would begin to unravel.
There Lexington got an RBI double of its own, a strike from junior Jackie Oram that brought home Laura Whiteley. Soon thereafter, the Minutemen were able to chase Brody from the game in the fourth following a string of three consecutive base runners, including the fourth RBI double of the day, this time from catcher Katie Goodwin.
Sophomore Kayleigh Culhane came in the hopes of stopping any further damage, but she couldn’t prevent Brody’s runners she inherited from crossing the plate.
The fourth inning barrage, which also included two key defensive miscues for Westford, marked a turning point in the game that seemed to be in the hands of the Grey Ghosts.
“It was still our day, we just had that one bad inning where chased the runners and threw the ball around, which was uncharacteristic of us,” said Westford Academy manager Peter Burr.
On the other side of the diamond, Lexington manager Frank Pagliuca also agreed that the rally shifted the pendulum of momentum.
“I think (the fourth) was real critical,” said Pagliuca. “Our bats were a little quiet in the first few innings, (Brody) did a nice job of moving the ball around. And we might not have gotten a lot of big hits, but we did a good job of playing small ball and moving the runners. Once we relaxed, I think we did a much better job at the plate.”
From there the Minutemen had a 3-2 advantage in hits for the remainder of the contest, but that one of those Grey Ghost hits came in the form of an inside the park home run from pinch-hitter Katherine Lowe, who brought Westford back within one with two outs remaining.
Chateaneauf immediately followed Lowe’s blast with a single, and it appeared that the Ghosts might have a shot of completing the upset after all, but Erin Hanson was able to retire the remaining two batters to finish her complete game performance.
“We thought we’d (comeback) the whole time,” said Burr. “We had a tough game against Boston Latin the other day, and we’ve had a couple of tough games throughout the season, so we never say that we’re out of this.”
From here, Lexington moves on to a daunting first round contest on Saturday at 3 p.m against the third seeded Golden Tornadoes of Malden, but the Minutemen hope stopping the Grey Ghosts’ second wind can help provide them some valuable confidence moving forward.
“We’ve been in those situations a lot this year where the other team has come back, and it was key today that we closed the door,” said Pagliuca. “We didn’t panic, we kept our focus, and it was great.”