By Jim Sullivan
---- — AMESBURY - Ranked number one in the Cape Ann League Division 2, the Amesbury softball team (10-1) hosted D1 counterparts North Reading (9-4) yesterday afternoon and punched their ticket to the state tournament on a Hornets’ mis-communication in the outfield to win a tight game, 3-2.
“This was a nice comeback, (North Reading) is a good team,” said Indians’ coach Chris Perry. “It could’ve gone either way if stuff didn’t break.”
Carolina Merrill took the ball for the Indians against Hornets’ ace Terri Ferrazzani, and Merrill gave up no hits in the top of the first inning only to be matched by Ferrazzani who got out of the bottom of the frame on eight pitches.
Both right-handers remained on-target, giving up only one hit a piece through the second and third innings till Hornet Shelby Varney lead off the top of the fourth with a single then moved to second on a ground out. Merri Moise drew a walk next before Jessica Eisenhaure did the same to load the bases. But Merrill got Alicia McCauley to pop out to end the threat.
Amanda Schell started the bottom of the fourth with a triple past first base but was called out at the plate on a single from Cassie Schultz, who was out at second on a single from Ashley Valme. Erin Leary walked next before Autumn Kligerman popped up to keep things scoreless going into the fifth inning when the Hornets struck.
Meghan Riley led off the top of the frame with a double, then reached third on an error at first that put Ferrazzani at second. Varney knocked the very next pitch out to deep center field to score both runners and give North Reading the 2-0 advantage.
“They scored on a couple of fluke things,” Perry said of the Hornets. “That stuff happens. You never know, they’re a good team.”
Amesbury tied things in the bottom of the sixth when Schell reached with a single then scored on a triple from Schultz who then tied the game on a wild pitch.
Nicole Eisenhaure started the top of the seventh inning with a single past third base. Meghan Riley moved her over with a ground out. But Eisenhaure got a little too big for her britches and was caught stealing at third.
The bottom of the seventh started well for Amesbury with a single from Autumn Kligerman who moved over to second on a grounder. After another quick out, Jenna Bartley scored the winning run on a pop up to center field that saw the Hornets’ center fielder Varney and right fielder Meghan Riley’s communication breakdown to allow the ball to drop to give Amesbury the win.
“We made three mistakes and they all cost us,” said Hornets’ coach Rusty Russell. “It was a tough game, Amesbury is always a tough team. We always have great games. Chris is a great coach. That’s the way it happens. So, we’ll just move on from here.”
“It’s been a weird week,” Perry said of a week that began with his team’s first loss of the season to Triton, a commanding win over Newburyport on Wednesday, then a tight win over North Reading to close the week. “In the beginning of the week, Triton just beat us. We hit like crazy on Wednesday. Today, who knows? That’s why you play the games, I guess.”