CONWAY — The Mount Washington Valley Eagles U14 and U16 softball teams wrapped up the summer season on a positive note last weekend with both squads going 3-1 to finish as runner-ups in a tournament held at the Nick in Wolfeboro.
Coaches Ed Alkalay, Dave Caputo, Chris Kroski and Larry Meader were pleased with how the hometown flocks played.
“It was a fun competitive tournament — the only downside was Sunday’s heat was an unpleasant surprise as was the Saturday thunder and hailstorm that dropped two inches of rain and hail in 20 minutes and flooded the fields, but luckily the fields drain quickly there since it’s built on a sand pit and many people pitched in to move the standing water off,” said Coach Caputo.
He added: “Other than that the two teams each played four games over two days and had a blast. Both teams ended up in the championship games with the 16U’s losing 5-2 to the North Berwick Blaze in a classic pitcher’s duel and the 14U’s losing 11-9 to the Wolfeboro Wolverines.”
Coach Caputo shared highlights for both teams. Today, batting leadoff, we feature the U16 team, and the U14s are on deck for Thursday’s issue.
The 16U’s won two games on Saturday defeating the North Berwick Blaze 4-2 and the Northwood Aftershock 7-1.
Against the Blaze, the Eagles got off to a quick start with Caroline Coleman leading off with a double followed by a bunt single by Marissa Caputo, who was able to reach third on a throwing error. Allie Hussey followed with a single up the middle scoring Caputo. The Eagle’s Ashley Glaze added the final touch with a mammoth home run deep over the left field fence.
Before the Blaze recorded their first out, they were down 4-0. As luck would have it, that was all the scoring the Eagles needed (and would get) as Izzy Higgins pitched five innings giving up two runs on five hits and two walks, while striking out six, while the Blaze’s pitcher was able to settle down and allow no further damage throughout the game.
The defensive highlights were center fielder Hope Elias’ inning-ending catch in the fourth on a deep blast by the Blaze’s clean-up hitter with two runners on that could have altered the final outcome as well as right fielder Emma Arnold’s running catch in the final inning, helping to snuff out a Blaze rally.
Showing how much the Eagles have improved over the last year, they followed up that victory by avenging three lopsided losses to the Northwood Aftershock over the past two seasons with a 7-1 victory. Once again, the game was highlighted by a spectacularly-pitched effort by Higgins, working four innings, giving up a run on two hits and four walks while striking out eight.
The offense was highlighted by a two-out, three-run single through the infield by Caputo, aided by a hustling Coleman, who was able to obscure the second baseman’s view of the ball, which scored Kaylee McLellan, Lauren Violette, and Coleman. Caputo then stole second and third and scored the fourth run of the inning on a passed ball leading to a 5-0 advantage after the second inning. Coleman and McLellan each scored another run in the game as did Higgins.
On Sunday, the Aftershock worked their way through the loser’s bracket to play the Eagles again and brought their “A” game. It was a true pitcher’s duel and the best game of the tournament. The Aftershock, having already played earlier in the day came out swinging and managed two runs in the top of the first. But that was all they could muster against Higgins on the day, who struck out seven, walked none and scattered six hits.
The defense was strong behind her with a nice running catch by right fielder Carli Krebs and catcher Hussey showing off her arm throwing out a runner attempting to steal second. Also, in the fourth, with two outs and runners on second and third, shortstop Caputo was able to make a diving stop to her left to snare what would have been a two-run single and then got up to gun down the batter at first.
The Aftershock ace was just as effective, giving up just three Eagle hits while striking out eight over the first five innings with the only run coming in the second inning on a Krebs single, which scored Caputo from first base after she had walked. After five innings the Eagles failed to get another runner past second base and were still down 2-1 when when Hope Elias was able to get on with an infield single with one out. Glaze came up with two outs and blasted a 1-0 pitch deep over the center field fence for a go-ahead two run homer. Higgins then shut down the Aftershock 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh for the 3-2 victory.
In the Sunday finale the Eagles again faced off against the North Berwick Blaze, who were coming off of two victories over Raymond and Wolfeboro to reach the finals. The Blaze started quickly with their leadoff hitter taking the first pitch deep for a ground-rule double as they jumped to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. The Eagles battled back in the bottom of the first with Coleman leading off with a single and later scoring on a Glaze single.
On a sunny, 90-degree afternoon, and after pitching a complete seven inning game earlier in the day, the gutsy Higgins matched the Blaze ace pitch for pitch striking out eight hitters, while the Blaze were able to manage another two runs in the fifth and an insurance run in the seventh. The Blaze pitcher was equal to the task, striking out 10 Eagles.
The only threat came in the sixth when Glaze led off with a triple which was followed by a one out walk by Caputo, who stole second, which allowed Glaze to score on the overthrow to second, but then the Blaze shortstop was able to gun down Caputo at the plate after the center fielder retrieved the overthrow. Coleman was able to earn a two-out walk in the bottom of the seventh, but the game ended when a drive to center field was caught by the Blaze to secure the championship trophy.