BOSTON -- It took a couple trips through the lineup, but the Chelmsford High softball team eventually got going in a big way.
A home run and a pair of triples sparked a four-run fifth inning that broke open Friday’s MIAA Division 1 North first round game at Daisy Field, as the Lions beat host Boston Latin, 9-1.
Chelmsford (16-6) had a 2-1 lead going into that fifth inning, when first baseman Janelle Levesque, the team’s No. 9 hitter, roped a one-out triple to the left-center alley. Shortstop Abby Johnson followed with a grounder to Wolfpack shortstop Mary Demoura, and Levesque just beat the throw home to make it 3-1.
Second baseman Clancy Taylor laced an RBI triple to score Johnson, and center fielder Alex Burgess capped the rally with a home run to deep center.
Latin (15-6) pitcher Caitlin Berry had allowed just one hit in the first four innings. Chelmsford head coach Bruce Rich said his team may have been trying to do a little too much at the plate early in the game.
“We tell the kids a homerun is basically an accident. All you’re trying to do is hit line drives,” Rich said. “The kids leveled their swings out, and I think they became more disciplined as the game went on.”
Burgess stroked a ground rule double and scored in the Lions’ three-run seventh.
“She’s explosive,” Rich said. “She can play small ball, and then she can turn around and kill a ball. It was nice to see her play a great game.”
After going 0-for-2 in her first two at-bats, Burgess said she got a little inspiration from the crowd before hitting her homer.
“I kept hitting little foul ball pop-ups, and then I heard someone’s dad say, ‘Stop getting under it,’ and I got really mad and just hit it,” she said.
Both teams struck for a run in the first inning. Johnson reached first on an infield error to start the game and went for third on Taylor’s sacrifice bunt, drawing a bad throw that allowed her to score.
Demoura led off the bottom of the first with a single to right, stole second and advanced to third on center fielder Bridget Walsh’s ground ball back to the pitcher. Wolfpack catcher Paige Mulry followed with a sacrifice fly to knock in Demoura and tie the game, 1-1.
Lion righthander Meghan Rich settled in after that, going five strong innings for the win. She gave up four hits and walked three while striking out two. Kaela DeAngelis pitched two innings of hitless relief, as Chelmsford’s 1-2 punch was effective against a Boston Latin team that impressed the Lions’ coach.
“They were tough; that’s a good-hitting team,” Bruce Rich said. “I know they’ve hit the ball all year, and they’ve beaten some good teams. I thought they played some good defense. Their shortstop (Demoura) was phenomenal today; she’s an outstanding player.”
Left fielder Erin Carpenter put the Lions ahead for good with a two-out triple in the second to score designated hitter Abby Desrosiers, who reached on an error to start the inning.
The Lions flashed some leather in the sixth with a well-executed double play. Taylor fielded the grounder cleanly and flipped it backhand to Johnson, who made the quick turn to throw out the runner at first and end the inning.
Desrosiers – who had the game-winning hit in the eight inning of Chelmsford’s 4-3 preliminary round win over Medford Thursday – had a two-run single in the seventh to make it 8-1. Right fielder Jen Janiak knocked in Desrosiers with a single through the hole to left, scoring the game’s final run.
Taylor, Burgess and Carpenter all had two hits for Chelmsford. Demoura went 2-for-4 at the plate for the Wolfpack, who also got a double from DH Courtney Hoban and a single by Walsh.
Chelmsford is one of eight Merrimack Valley Conference teams to qualify for the state tournament. Six are in Division 1 North, and that doesn’t include Dracut, one of the best teams in the state.
“I think that our league being better this year, more competitive this year, is making us better in the postseason,” Rich said. “I’m just happy we haven’t seen a team from our league in this tournament so far.”
The Lions endured a 2-5 stretch toward the end of the regular season – including a 5-1 loss to the Middies – but have won five in a row since then. Burgess, one of 11 seniors on the team, hopes to add a few more to that streak.
“Even though we had a rough season, this is what matters now,” Burgess said.