BRIDGEWATER – With the No. 2 Silver Lake softball team clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the sixth against No. 1 Bridgewater-Raynham on Friday, Emily Kurkul unloaded what looked like a game-tying homer toward the centerfield fence.
Lakers centerfielder Kendra Carley sprinted toward the fence, caught the ball in a full run and collided with the fence at the same time. The force with which she hit the fence sent her headfirst over it, her feet finally disappearing behind the wall.
She slowly stood up, turning toward the field as she did so. The senior captain reached into her glove, pulling out the ball to signal she had somehow come down with it. After a minute’s discussion, the umpires ruled she caught the ball in play, signaling an out and leaving the Lakers holding the same 3-2 lead they would eventually win by.
“Kendra covers a ton of ground out there,” said SL coach Tony Pina. “If that ball is in the air, and it’s in the field, she’s going to get it. That’s the type of play a senior captain makes in a big game. She’s going to remember play. A lot of people are going to remember that catch for a long time.”
“The minute I heard that go off Emily Kurkul’s bat, I knew it was going far,” said SL pitcher Maddie Barone. “As I saw Kendra tracking it back I was just praying she could catch it. When she flipped it and kept it in her glove, that was just amazing. I could tell she caught it because our fan section (behind the centerfield fence) started jumping up in the air.”
While it was a senior leader carrying them late, it was a budding star that got things going in the Silver Lake win. After Emily Colton singled to start the game, freshman Emily Critch belted a Sarah Dawson offering for her third homer of the year for a quick 2-0 lead.
“Right from the get-go, a ball is left out over the plate and she rifles it out to left center,” said B-R coach Mike Carrozza. “Now we’re down 2-0 and playing from behind, which is difficult to do, but our girls came right back and scored a run in that inning and then we tied up the game."
B-R scored in the bottom of the first when Madi Shaw singled and came around on a throwing error for the first run scored against Silver Lake (8-0) all season. The Trojans tied the game in the third, finally scoring the first run against Barone this season.
In the fifth, Barone exacted some revenge against the Trojans (7-1), and she unloaded what would prove to be a game-winning blast deep to center field.
“After playing against (Dawson) last, and Emily plays on her club team, we know some of her pitches,” said Barone. “We also know she’s not going to walk a lot of people, so we knew it was going to be around the plate sooner or later.”
Coming of age for Critch: Critch has been tasked with replacing Barone’s older sister, Alex, who is currently playing at NCAA Div. 2 Eckerd College in Florida. No easy task, but the freshman has slid into the role without missing a beat.
Her offense is obviously impressive, as she’s already claimed the No. 2 spot in a powerful lineup for the Lakers, but her biggest impact is probably behind the plate where she’s tasked with catching one of the state’s elite pitchers in Barone.
“Maddie and Emily have a relationship and they trust one another, and I trust that relationship,” said Pina. “They work well together and I have complete faith in her calling a game and catching the kind of game we need to win.”
She certainly caught a good one on Friday, serving as Barone’s signal caller in a six strikeout, one earned run effort. Outside of Carley’s homer robbing catch, Critch may have made the play of the day for SL.
After B-R’s leadoff hitter reached on an error in the seventh inning, the Trojans attempted to sacrifice bunt the runner into scoring position. The ball popped into the air, quickly falling toward the ground. Critch dove from her crouched position, snagging the ball inches from the gravel for an out.
She rolled over and uncorked a throw to first base, doubling off the baserunner and effectively ending the B-R comeback attempt.
“Today, you saw Emily Critch, whose a freshman, grow up right in front of your eyes,” said Pina. “She gets up the plate in her first at-bat and homers, and she’s making the types of plays she’s making? You just saw a kid grow up in today’s game.”