TAUNTON, Mass. -- It all happened in the second inning.
Case, the defending Division 3 South softball champions, ran out to a 4-0 a lead over Avon in their sectional title game Friday at Taunton High.
Then, in the bottom of the second and leading 4-2, the Cardinals lost their ace Shannon Orton after a collision with a runner while making the final out of the inning.
In came Case first baseman Danielle Medeiros.
She’d thrown all of 11 innings all season, spelling Orton. But the left-hander didn’t miss a beat, hanging five scoreless innings on the Panthers to lead the Cardinals (18-6) to their second straight sectional title with a 5-2 victory.
“I usually don’t break under pressure like that, but I was scared,” Medeiros said of her emotions entering the circle.
While nerves might have temporarily taken a hold of Medeiros, she was on point, striking out six while allowing just one hit while taking the win.
“That’s a senior captain coming up and showing what she’s made of,” Case head coach Norm Beauchemin said. “She did a great job. She only had 11 innings this season, so to come on the mound in a situation like this, she did unbelievable. She showed some character.”
Medeiros entered the game with a 4-0 lead thanks to a four-run second inning.
Orton led off the inning with a triple and later came around to score on a passed ball. Cardinals lead-off hitter Allison Santerre provided the big hit of the frame, with a bases-clearing, three-run double to right.
Case added an insurance run in the fourth inning with Danielle Robillard’s RBI single.
Orton ran into some trouble in the first inning and fell behind 2-0 when Avon (19-5) snuck across an unearned run on an outfield throwing error and Stephanie Lynch’s fielder’s choice for an RBI.
However, the junior pitcher left the game after the fateful second. Orton snared a pop-up off the bat of Avon’s Alexandra Burns to end the inning, but collided with Burns while she was running down the first-base line. After suffering a concussion while playing basketball in January, she was taken out of the game as a precaution.
“She feels fine and I think she’ll be cleared for next week,” Beauchemin said of Orton’s condition.
Case will face off against the North sectional champion on Tuesday at Taunton with a 5 p.m. start time.
“After this year, I’m not playing anymore, so I want us to go far this year,” Medeiros said of her Cardinal teammates, who fell to eventual state champion St. Mary’s in last year’s state semifinal. “This is a good way to keep going.”
HOPKINTON MOVES ON
Thursday’s Division 2 semifinal between Hopkinton and Fairhaven, which was suspended in the top of the fifth inning, was finished earlier in the afternoon at Taunton.
The Hillers held true to where they’d left off (with a 5-0 lead) in taking a 5-0 win over the Blue Devils to advance to the sectional final.
The Tri-Valley League champions will face the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between Abington and Coyle-Cassidy.
Hopkinton (21-2) received a boost from junior left fielder Nicole Mellor, who drove in three of its five runs. Pitcher Michelle Cooprider also added an RBI single.
Cooprider was masterful in the circle and started the contest with seven straight strikeouts against the Blue Devils (18-5).
More amazingly, she only required the minimum 18 pitches in striking out the side in both the first and second innings.