By Mac Cerullo
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Seemingly dead and buried on more than one occasion, the Newburyport softball team pulled out a stunning 16-15 win over Amesbury yesterday afternoon, twice erasing four-run deficits before winning the game on a walk-off, bases-loaded walk.
Facing a 15-11 deficit with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, the Clippers were down to their last strike when they rallied and scored five runs to win the game. Earlier on, Newburyport had come back from an 8-1 deficit to take an 11-8 lead in the fifth, but Amesbury responded with six runs in the sixth to quickly reclaim the lead.
Though they were able to get on base at will, the Indians just couldn’t buy an out late in the game, and afterward coach Chris Perry said he’d never seen his pitching and defense evaporate like that.
“We gave up way too many runs,” Perry said. “When you score 15, you should win, but if you give up 16, you should never win. I thought offensively we did a good job, we hit the ball pretty good and got on base, but defensively, whew, we didn’t play a good game.”
Early on, it looked as if Amesbury was going to win handily. The Indians took a 4-1 lead going into the third, and then stretched that lead to 8-1 after the top of the fourth inning.
Rather than roll over and give up, however, Newburyport got its bats going and fought back. The Clippers got two runs back in the bottom of the fourth to make it 8-3 before exploding for an eight-run fifth inning in which the Clippers batted around the order and pulled ahead 11-8.
The rally started when Amy Sullivan and Shelby O’Brien got on base, giving the Clippers a first and third situation with one out. Junior shortstop Meghan Stanton drove in Sullivan with an RBI base hit, and then came in to score herself after second baseman Molly Kelley cranked a bases clearing triple.
Then came Lauren Singer, who was playing in her first game back since breaking four vertebrae in the offseason. Earlier in the game Singer had jacked two triples with the bases empty, and this time she took advantage of the runner on third and drove Kelley home with a base hit in her next at-bat.
After Victoria Allman and Morgan Johnston each singled, the Clippers had the bases loaded again. Ashley Hodge walked to drive in the tying run, and then Carley Siemasko gave Newburyport the 11-8 lead with a bases clearing single.
Despite the dramatic rally, Amesbury didn’t stay down for long. The Indians came right back with six more runs in the top of the sixth inning, stringing together a series of RBI singles from Rachael Cyr, Autumn Kligerman, Meagan Aponas, Lauren Fedorchak, Madison Napoli and Alexis Boswell to make it 14-11.
In the bottom of the sixth, Newburyport threatened to tie it up again, but after getting two men on with one out, Amesbury got out of the jam. The Indians got an insurance run in the top of the seventh when Amanda Schell hit an inside-the-park home run, meaning the Clippers would have to score at least four runs in the bottom of the seventh to stay alive.
Wasting no time, Newburyport loaded the bases with one out, giving O’Brien a chance to tie the game for the Clippers with one swing of the bat. Amesbury pitcher Samantha Stone responded by striking O’Brien out, and after getting Stanton down to her last strike, it looked as if the Indians had the game in hand.
But it wasn’t to be. Stanton wound up connecting for an RBI single, and Kelley walked in her next at-bat to drive in another run. That brought Singer to the plate again, and she completed a four-hit day by hitting the game-tying single.
Now guaranteed no worse than extra innings, the Clippers wound up loading the bases again after Schell was called for catcher’s interference, allowing Allman to reach first. To complete the rally, Johnston walked to drive in the game-winning run, giving Newburyport the improbable victory.
“It was good,” said Newburyport coach Lori Solazzo. “We had our innings where our bats weren’t there, but I would say that we kept our composure and went pitch by pitch and rolled with the punches.”
With the win, Newburyport improves to 2-2 on the season, while Amesbury falls to 2-1. Both teams will be back in action tomorrow, when Newburyport heads to Saugus and Amesbury faces Rockport at home. Each game is scheduled to begin at 3:45 p.m.