Sunday, June 19, 2011
Wahconah prevails over Burlington in 11 inn.
By Bruce Lerch
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Struggling through the middle innings of Saturday's Div. 2 state championship softball game, Wahconah Regional ace Sam Burgner needed a pick-me-up.
The senior got that and more, as the Warriors rallied with two runs in the bottom of the sixth and Shannon Lussier delivered Sara Hamilton with an 11th-inning single to give Wahconah a 4-3 victory over Burlington Saturday at Rockwood Park.
The win marks not only the first state title for the Warriors (24-1), but also the first time any softball team from Berkshire County won the crown.
"Its very special," said Wahconah coach Dustin Belcher. "I think we play a very good brand of softball in the Berkshires. I’m happy to be a part of it. The kids win the games but I’m happy to go along for the ride."
Hamilton led off the 11th with a single and scampered into second as the ball bouned around the outfield. Lauryn Huban sacrificed her to third, and wound up at safe at first after an errant throw. Two batters later, Lussier belted a single into centerfield, plating Hamilton with what proved to be the game-winning run as Burgner closed things out with a 1-2-3 inning.
"I didn’t want to let my team down and I knew I had to hit the ball," said a choked up Lussier afterward. "It felt like my perfect pitch and I wanted to drive it. I was so excited because it was a really big hit."
Added Hamilton, "I was on third and I was very nervous. Shannon hit one to center and I just took off and put my hands up. I was like thank goodness we finally got a run."
The way Burlington (23-3) fireballer Courtney Lanfranchi (12 strikeouts, one walk) was throwing, extra innings seemed like a remote possibility after her team grabbed a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. After stumbling through the first inning and allowing an RBI single by Hamilton, Lanfranchi breezed into the sixth while allowing just two baserunners over the next four innings.
Meanwhile, the offense was busy getting its ace a lead to work with. Amy Hunter led off the third with a walk, took second on a sacrifice bunt by Amber Eisenhauer, then moved to third on a groundout by April Adams. Leadoff batter Christina Raso promptly drove a liner up the middle that went off Burgner's shin, and her throw to first went wide as Hunter came across with Burlington's first run.
After stranding runners at second and third in the fourth, the Red Devils broke through again in the fifth on RBI singles by Stacey Bezreh and Jillian Mazure to make it 3-1.
Wahconah took advantage of a throwing error in the top of the sixth to tie it with both Gabby Lavinio, who started the inning with a leadoff triple, and Sara Hamilton scoring on the play.
Those runs seemed to breathe new life into Burgner, who left the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth and set down 16 of the final 17 hitters she faced.
"I definitely got more confident," Burgner admitted. "I just got it in my head to hit my spots and not worry. My team did so much to get those runs back. I owed it to them to my part and hit my spots and do that for them."