By Dave Caputo
Special to The Conway Daily Sun
CONWAY — The Mount Washington Valley Eagles U14 softball team wrapped up the summer season on a positive note last weekend 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 flock 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 sandpit and many people pitched in to move the standing water off.
The U14s played one game on Saturday taking a 3-3 tie into the fourth inning against the Wolfeboro Wolverines but ended up giving up seven runs in the fourth inning on its way to a 10-3 loss to their rivals. The three runs were scored by Sophie Odell, Leah Alkalay and Heather Shackford while Ashley Garside and Emma Geoffrey each went 2-2 against the Wolfeboro ace.
Luck wasn’t any better later in the day as an August thunder and hailstorm decided to fill the field at game time with two inches of water in about 20 minutes postponing the Eagles’ second game until the following morning forcing an already depleted pitching staff to play three consecutive games on Sunday and the coaching staff to plan around the first game in order to preserve pitchers Stella Keeler’s and Heather Shackford’s arms for the championship round.
The Eagles, to their credit, were able to jump out to a five-run lead in the top of the first only to give up four in the bottom of the frame followed by seven more in the second. The Eagles came back to score four runs in the bottom of the third only to have the final out recorded on a close call at the plate ending the game with an 11-9 loss.
Odell, Stella Keeler, and Garside led the offense each scoring three runs and Moira Irish, Shackford, and Remi Snowden each providing one run.
In the championship round, the Eagles faced off against the North Berwick Blaze and quickly jumped out to a 7-0 first-inning lead and never looked back in a 19-12 victory. Keeler was called on to pitch a complete game on a hot and sunny 90-degree day and pitched well in light of the conditions, including gutting out a final inning before striking out the final batter.
The MWV offense was led by Irish and Alkalay who each scored three times, Lily Holt-Tillinghast, Odell, Garside, Snowden and Shackford who each scored twice, and Keeler, Emma Geoffrey, and Joce Anzaldi each scored once.
The defense was led by nice catches by left-fielder Irish and centerfielder Geoffrey on two blasts by the Blaze’s clean-up hitter and three double plays by the infield.
In the championship game, the Eagles once again faced off against Wolfeboro with Shackford going to the mound. Despite playing in their third consecutive game in the morning, and after a scoreless first, the Eagles jumped on the Wolfeboro ace for five runs in the second. Garside led off the second with a triple and scored followed by Alkalay, Shackford, Anzaldi and Shackford.
Garside scored again in the third for a six-run lead.
That advantage was short-lived as Wolfeboro was able to come up with six runs in the third frame and then shut down the Eagles in order in the fourth and fifth innings. Wolfeboro was able to extend the lead to 9-6 through five but Snowden and Garside were able to connect on back-to-back doubles in the sixth which were followed by an Alkalay single to bring the deficit to 9-8.
The Wolverines scored two more in the sixth to stretch the lead back to three. Karlee Eldridge was able to get a one-out single in the seventh, steal second and then score on a Holt-Tillinghast single before Wolfeboro was able to secure the final two outs and the championship trophy 11-9.
Coach Caputo commended pitchers Keeler and Shackford for each gutting through six inning performances on a very hot day in which they were running on fumes by the end as well as catcher Holt-Tillinghast, who caught all six innings of the finale behind the plate after catching most of the first two games in the morning.
Overall the season was a huge success for all the players who showed incredible improvement from the first few games of the season back in late June until the season’s end which was less than two months after their first pandemic delayed practice. After what looked like a lost season for softball amid the COVID crisis ended up turning into a memorable summer of softball. Based on how these girls performed and started to develop confidence the future looks bright for the Kennett High School Eagles.
KHS varsity coach Chris Kroski summed it up with his final words on the day being “After being able to work with these ladies over the last couple of months, I’m very excited for next spring.”