HUDSON, Mass. -- You might say Jurnee Serating-Ware is a quintessential multi-tasker.
Before every Hudson High home softball game, the junior sings a solid rendition of the National Anthem. Then she takes her place inside the circle as the Hawks' ace pitcher.
Ware performed brilliantly in both aspects Monday. Facing Mid-Wach B Division rival Nashoba Regional in a all-important divisional contest, Ware twirled a gem, surrendering just a pair of singles while striking out five in leading No. 13 Hudson to a one-sided 11-0 victory. Not once throughout this affair did a Chieftain batter advance beyond first base. Among those five K’s was Ware's 500th for her career.
“It doesn’t seem real right now,” said Ware, a lefty with an ERA of just over 1.00. “It was only like 12 games ago that I had 400. I go into every game not worrying about the batter but just doing what I need to do. I know for the most part what a batter can and cannot hit so I just try to focus on that. I didn't even know I was that close to 500 because my coach [Steve Martin] never told me.”
Ware, who came into the game need four strikeouts for the milestone, also said she couldn’t remember when her first career strikeout as a Hawk was. But Martin did. He recalled that it came during Ware's freshman season in a game against Algonquin Regional. In that game, it was scoreless deadlock heading into the ninth inning before Hudson won it 1-0 ironically on a Ware solo home run.
With this victory the Hawks improve to 11-2 and are 6-0 in divisional play. With the Chieftains (9-5, 4-2) nipping at its heels in the league standings all season, this pivotal win gives Hudson a two-game comfort margin with six regular season games remaining on the schedule.
“I told Jurnee that not many people get to 500 strikeouts in their high school career so be proud of it,” Martin said. “As long as she stays healthy I think she has a legitimate shot at Kaitlyn Andrews’ school record of 720 strikeouts.”
Hudson put this tilt in its rearview mirror early. The Hawks scored once in the first, five more times in the second and added a solo run in the third. Nashoba did little to help its cause as the Chieftains committed five errors. Ware, who also added a pair of doubles and an RBI on the afternoon, got things started in the opening frame by ripping a two-bagger. After advancing to third, she trotted home on Kara Knights’ deep flyout.
Nashoba sophomore righty Emily Sargent, obviously a bit flustered by the lack of defense behind her, was not as sharp as she has normally been. Entering this tilt with an ERA of 2.21, Sargent uncharacteristcally served up 12 hits and struck out four.
Hudson sent nine to the plate in the second frame after banging out four hits and taking advantage of three Nashoba miscues to extend its lead to 6-0. Key at bats in the inning came from Knights, a junior who delivered a two-run single and a Ware run-scoring double.
“For some reason plays we normally make against other schools we don’t make against Hudson,” said Chieftains coach Steve Kendall, who has now lost to the Hawks three times this season. “It’s something about that team where we just don’t perform well. I don’t know what it is. For whatever reason we just beat ourselves against that team. They are too good where you can’t make that many mistakes like we did today.”
In the Hawks’ third, they put two runners on with one out. Ware next grounded a ball to shortstop Eileen McGarry but the junior's throw pulled first baseman Joyce LaBonte off the bag resulting in another run.
Sargent managed to settle down over the next two innings as she kept the Hawks off the board. But that trend didn't last very long. Hudson opened its half of the sixth by putting the first two batters on before Kendal LaFrancois, a transfer from Nashoba, drove a hard ground ball single to plate a run. Chelsey Scovil then smashed a double to left scoring two more. A few moments later Scovil crossed the plate with the Hawks’ 11th run following a Maria Hydro single.
Meanwhile, Ware had the Chieftains right where she wanted them from the outset as they had trouble picking up the movement of her pitches.
“I know Jurnee is proud of her accomplishment but getting this win today in a huge league game with Nashoba coming in just one game behind us was the biggest importance of day,” Martin said. “We spent a good part of last week on our hitting because we haven’t been hitting the ball that well of late. Today we really hit well against a very good pitcher. To hit her like we did today, I think those hitting sessions we had seemed to work out.”