By Jim Sullivan
---- — Riding a five-game winning streak, the Newburyport softball team put that streak to the test yesterday as it hosted a North Reading team tied with the Clippers in the Cape Ann League standings in the loss column.
The Clippers (10-5 overall, 8-4 CAL) found out the Hornets (11-5 overall, 7-3 CAL) are even hotter as they grabbed first place in CAL Division 1, taking down Newburyport 16-8.
“It was a tough game,” said Clippers coach Lori Solazzo. “We battled hard in the beginning, but it was a combo of weather and hitting the ball, you can’t take that away from them. They hit the ball hard.”
With dark clouds approaching, Solazzo sent pitcher Victoria Allman to the circle and the right-hander went 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning. Kendra Dow led off the bottom of the frame with a triple to center field off the first pitch from Hornets pitcher Terri Ferrazzani. Dow then scored the Clippers’ first run of the day on a single from Lauren Singer.
The Hornets would have a baserunner in the top of the third when Tarah Reilly hit a two-out double out to center. But Allman kept her cool, getting Kelsey DeMild to ground out to first before Reilly could score.
Newburyport would score its second run of the day in the bottom of the third when Lea Tomasz reached on a single, then moved to second when Shelby O’Brien was hit by a pitch. Both runners moved over on a bunt bid from Casey Barlow, and Tomasz came in on a passed ball.
The Clippers plated another run in the fourth inning when Dow hit another single then advanced to third on the same from Tomasz. Dow showed some excellent base running skills next, grabbing the plate while Tomasz stole second.
The Hornets took the lead in the top of the fifth as the rain began to arrive in earnest, and Reilly knocked in Nicole Eisenhaure with a double then came in herself on the same from Ferrazzani. Shelby Carney bunted Ferrazzani to third, then Carney stole second. Ferrazzani was gunned down at the plate before Merri Moise had a single then stole second. Meghan Riley knocked in two runs next with a double to jump the Hornets up a run.
North Reading stung in the top of the sixth, tacking on six additional runs, all with two outs. Reilly plated Eisenhaure with a triple to deep center, then came home on a single from Ferrazzani. Carney then scored Ferrazzani with a triple and came home along with Moise on a double from Jessica Eisenhaure. Allman then loaded the bases, giving up a single and a walk that resulted in another run.
Tomasz replaced Allman on the bump in the top of the seventh, and gave up an additional six runs before the bleeding would stop.
Newburyport would put up a more than decent fight in the bottom of the seventh, starting when Shelby O’Brien had a triple and was plated by Casey Barlow, who then came in on a single from Tomasz. Tomasz scored on a double from Stanton. Jackie Krusemark scored Stanton with a double of her own then scored on a single from Ashley Hodge before the Clippers would go away.
“We’ve got some fight in us, absolutely,” Solazzo said after the seventh-inning rally. “We’re not done yet.”
“It was a matter of getting started,” said Hornets coach Rusty Russell. “You can give a team like Newburyport three runs, and sometimes that’s enough. Our bats got going late and it just kept going. We had some good hits. I’m happy with how things are going.”