By Jim Sullivan
---- — Area softball fans may need to give Triton a closer look.
After taking down Newburyport and Pentucket last week, the Vikings (4-4) traveled to Amesbury (8-1) and promptly handed the perennial superpower its first loss of the season 4-3, thanks to a gritty performance from pitcher Mara Spears.
“Our team has been playing well for the last six games,” said Vikings coach Jim Hounam. “We’re hanging in there, we’re working out of some sticky situations. They had us a couple of times today. But we worked out of it. Mara has been incredible.”
Amesbury ace Carolina Merrill took the ball, and she and Spears cruised until the bottom of the third inning when Spears faltered, giving up a triple to Alexis Boswell with one out. Cassandra Schultz drew a walk next, before Amanda Schell knocked in Boswell with a single to center to put Amesbury up one.
Spears had another scare in the bottom of the fourth when Ashley Valme reached on a single and moved to second on a single from Autumn Kilgerman. Both runners moved up a spot on a ground out before Lauren Fedorchak popped up to end the inning.
Boswell led off the bottom of the fifth with a single past third base and stole second next. Schell bunted Boswell over to second and Mckenzie Cloutier knocked in the run before scoring herself on a triple from Valme to give the Indians the 3-0 advantage.
The Vikes would have more to worry about than three runs in the next at-bat when Spears hit the deck pitching to Kligerman. The junior remained on the ground clutching her right knee, but would stand on her own power, waving people off, before getting Kligerman to pop out to end the inning.
“I had an injury when I was a freshman,” Spears said of an MCL sprain, two years ago. “It acts up sometimes, and that’s just what happens.”
“That would have been devastating,” said Hounam. “That would have been a huge blow if we had to spend some time without her. Especially with the way that she’s been hitting and pitching.”
Luckily for Hounam, Spears remained in the game, and the Vikes started the sixth inning off with a single from Rachel McCarthy, who moved over on a single from Spears. Triton’s first run of the day would come next thanks to a textbook bunt from Rylee Culverwell. Kylie Gilroy tied the game next with a single past third.
“This crew is good at rallying around and all that good stuff,” said Hounam. “For us, it was 3-0 going into the sixth. They could have folded it, packed their tents, but they stuck it out and came up with the plays that they needed to.”
Spears took care of business from the circle again in the bottom of the sixth, leading into the top of the seventh where Julia Hartman hit a single out to leftfield with one out. She then moved over on a groundout from Alex Reilly. Spears gave the Vikes the winning run with a simple single.
“We didn’t make the plays when we had to,” said Indians coach Chris Perry. “Routine plays should’ve gotten us out of the (sixth) inning, but we didn’t make them. You’ve got to make the routine plays. They did and we didn’t.”
Spears credited her team’s unity with the win, and says it should carry them for a while.
“It’s a really big win for us,” said Spears. “It’s really, really satisfying. It builds our confidence a lot. Because we know how good of a team they are. We know the reputation they have, so I really think it’s going to help us.”