Boston High School: Ernie Ortega
June, 17, 2012
WORCESTER, Mass. – The kids are better than alright.
Grafton softball, which boasts just 12 players on its game roster, only two of which were seniors this season, claimed its first-ever state championship, edging Abington, 1-0, at Worcester State University on Saturday.
The Indians ran through most of the regular season with an undefeated record, and they continued tearing through the postseason, outscoring opponents 28-4 in three games during the Division 2 Central tournament, before taking a 3-2 win over defending state champion Hampshire Regional in order to get to championship Saturday.
Once there, Grafton was carried by a sophomore pitcher, Kendal Roy, who threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout. The game-winning hit was provided by a freshman, second baseman Amanda Voellings.
This may have been the first time, but these Indians aren’t going anywhere.
“We’ve been playing since middle school, since we were 10 years old, together,” Roy said. “I think this is the team, this year and next year that’s going to be the strongest. I know all the girls, we’ve known each other for years.”
The Indians (24-1) played a very much collaborative game. Roy pitched to contact and let her slick-fielding teammates take care of the work behind her.
Yet, Roy was able to pump it up when called upon. Half of her six strikeouts came in the third inning, when she struck out the side despite some difficulty. Green Wave center fielder Alicia Reid lined a two-out single to center. The fleet-footed junior promptly stole second and kept running to third on an error on the throw down. It was then Roy ratcheted up the velocity and ended the inning on a three-pitch strikeout to end the frame.
Grafton struck for its run in the fifth, when first baseman Kate Cardoza led off with a single. After Nikki Murphy laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Cardoza over to second, Voellings rapped a two-out single to right.
“I moved in on the plate because I noticed she was going outside a lot and I struck out the first time, so I wanted to make sure I could cover [the plate],” Voellings said of her at-bat.”
SOMETHING HAD TO GIVE
Both Grafton and Abington were in uncharted waters Saturday, making the deepest postseason run in either program’s history, so someone had to go home a first-time champion.
It didn’t work out for Ernie Ortega’s Green Wave (23-3) this year, but like their Saturday opponent, Abington has a young nucleus. While the Green Wave will certainly miss outgoing ace Kelly Norton (CG, 4 K, 5 H, 0 BB vs. Grafton) in the circle, things are looking up.
“This was a great group of girls,” Ortega said. “We’re going to lose four seniors, two that were starting players, so hopefully we’ll be able to fill in some of the gaps. We’ll need to break in a pitcher or two, but we’ve got a lot coming back, so we’ll try to make a deep run next year.”
June, 13, 2012
TAUNTON, Mass. -– Whenever a game-changing situation occurred during Tuesday’s Eastern Mass softball final, Abington right fielder Jill Marella was involved. A two-run single, a sac-fly, a fielder’s choice to score the game-winning run, a miracle catch in the field, she pretty much did it all.
Marella’s performance was a microchasm of the Green Wave’s unprecedented postseason run. After taking a 5-4 win over North sectional champion Dracut at Taunton High’s Jack Tripp Field, Abington will stare down history again with its first-ever trip to a softball championship game on Saturday.
“This is the way you want to go out senior year,” Marella said.
The Green Wave’s mettle was tested in several critical points of Tuesday’s game, and while it wasn’t always pretty, Abington (23-2) has continued to find ways to win ball games.
Dracut (23-2) erased two Green Wave leads in the early going, tying the game 1-1 through the first and 3-3 through three. Abington claimed its third lead of the game in the fourth on Marella’s sacrifice fly, scoring Victoria Chiocchio (2-for-2, two runs scored). The Middies again countered; Kaylee Kacavas’ sac-fly plated Samantha Durand in the fifth.
Although Abington regained the lead in the sixth, with Alicia Reid scoring on Marella’s bases-loaded fielder’s choice, there would be no clear sailing for the Green Wave.
Dracut had a runner in scoring position in both the home half of the sixth and seventh against Abington ace Kelly Norton. Those runners wouldn’t advance past second as the Green Wave defense held to retire the side in both innings without any further damage.
JACK OF ALL TRADES
Beside her work at the plate, Marella was instrumental to stopping a potential Middies rally in the fourth.
With the bases loaded and two out, Dracut lead-off hitter Amanda Vallante pulled a Norton offering to deep right. Although Marella initially broke in on the ball, she recovered in time to get back and snag the liner for the final out of the frame.
“I wasn’t used to the lights and I lost it for a little bit,” Marella said of her fully extended shoestring catch. “And I just kind of made a leap of faith, I grabbed it. I got lucky.”
It’s just another way Marella has delivered this postseason.
“She’s come up big every time we’ve asked her to,” Abington head coach Ernie Ortega said. “She gets the bunt down, or she gets a big hit. They play her to bunt all the time, but they don’t realize she does both, and she came up with the big hit.”
Norton, who is frequently dominant, found herself scrapping for three strikeouts against the Middies lineup. But she was at her best with her back against the wall in the final frames.
Abington assistant coach Marty French made several key trips to the circle to calm Norton’s nerves in those tense situations.
The experienced coach and pitching expert always seems to know exactly what to say. And how to make light of the situation.
“They’re light-hearted conversations, he likes to keep things upbeat,” Norton said. “In my head, I was freaking out, I was so nervous, but he just told me to relax.”
Norton induced a ground-ball out to end the sixth-inning rally and a couple of fly balls to end threats in the fifth and sixth.
Whatever French had to offer must’ve been pretty funny.
Abington’s chance at ultimate history comes Saturday at Worcester State College (4 p.m.) when the Green Wave will face Central sectional champion Grafton, which claimed a 3-2 win over Hampshire in the other state semifinal game on Tuesday.
Ortega feels his team will enter battle-tested.
“We’ve face some really, really tough teams coming out of the South. It’s just amazing the talent that has come out of there and to be able to be where we are now, I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet.”
“Coming this far, we have to win,” Norton added. “We have to win.”
June, 10, 2012
By Bruce Lerch | ESPNBoston.com
TAUNTON, Mass. -- A year ago, the Abington softball team was in the midst of a comeback bid against Coyle-Cassidy in the Div. 1 South semifinals when third baseman Stephanie Cornish slid into second base and broke two bones in her leg.
After undergoing surgery and not being able to walk for two and a half months, Cornish missed the fall soccer season while rehabbing. She was able to get back in time for basketball in the winter, but when spring rolled around, Cornish and her Green Wave teammates felt they had some unfinished business to take care of.
With Cornish playing a pivotal role in what was a stellar defensive performance, No. 1 Abington finished what they tried to do last year by capturing the south sectional title with a 3-1 victory over No. 3 Fairhaven Sunday at Taunton High School.
"Last year I broke my ankle. We were in the middle of a comeback too," Cornish recalled. "We were playing Coyle-Cassidy and I slid into second base and I broke my ankle - but I was safe though so that was good. But I think that kind of slowed our comeback a little and we ended up losing. Making it all the way this year is a great feeling. I can't describe it."
Cornish recorded a putout and three big assists in the later stages of Sunday's contest, emblematic of the way the Green Wave (22-2) settled down defensively after committing a pair of first inning errors that led to Fairhaven's (20-3) only run.
The defense provided a big boost behind Abington ace Kelly Norton, who scattered four hits and struck out six while setting down 16 of the last 17 hitters she faced from the third inning on.
"Since I have been at Abington Kelly has won 43 games and only lost four," said Green Wave coach Ernie Ortega. "That will tell you what kind of competitor she is and she does not let things get her down. It was very easy for them to get down after being down 1-0.
"We weren't making contact but once we tied the game and then took the lead, there was no looking back" he continued. "It's only the second time we've been down since I think the beginning of May. That was a testament to these girls. They showed they can play with the best of them."
A bit of nervousness played a role in a choppy start for Abington as the Lady Blue Devils put together a run when Kayli Moniz led off the game with a double and scored two batters later on a throwing error.
The Green Wave were to cash on mistakes as well, as Liz Morgan tied the game in the second, scoring after a double and a throwing error. Abington took the lead for good in the third when both MacKenzie Gillis and Jill Marella came all the way around after a pair of errors on Marella's bunt attempt.
Norton slammed the door shut from that point on, shaking off the nerves and allowing just a sixth inning double over the final five innings.
"Everyone just needed to take a deep breath because we always get nervous," Norton admitted. "Everyone's on the bus freaking out and jittery and we all just need to remember its just a game. We've played what, 23 times before this game? Everyone just relaxed and got back at it and collectively we did our job."
Norton added, "After the first two innings, I could tell I wasn't fully warmed up. Yesterday I was on it, I could feel I was in the zone. But after those first couple of innings I got down to basics and it just worked I guess."
June, 12, 2011
TAUNTON, Mass. -- Can anybody cool down the bats of Coyle-Cassidy softball?
The Eastern Athletic Conference champions mashed their way through the regular season, scoring 205 runs in the regular season, or greater than 10 runs a game. C-C began the Division 2 South tournament by hanging a pair of 16-run performances on Norwell and Hanover.
The Warriors kept swinging Sunday in their D2 South semifinal against Abington at Jack Tripp Field, pounding out 14 hits and doubling up the Green Wave, 8-4.
“They all know their job,” C-C head coach Russell Hunt said. “I could be the number three hitter, or the five-hitter that needs to execute, either on the bunt or to make some contact. They know their jobs and we try to keep it simple here and thus far they’ve executed.”
Part of the key to C-C’s success has been its stacked batting order, as exhibited on Sunday. Every Warrior starter had at least one hit and four players (Patty Borges, Julie LeClair, Tricia Quinn and Genna Whelan) had multi-hit games.
Quinn and center fielder Megan Ritchie led C-C (19-4) both drove in a pair of runs.
“The bottom third of our order could be the top third,” said Katie Bumila, the Warriors’ senior catcher. “You could turn our lineup all around and we would still have the same results because we have that power and we have really just good hitters all the way through the lineup.”
That bottom of the order made its presence felt in C-C’s four-run fourth inning.
Ritchie, batting out of the sixth-hole, clubbed a two-run single to left. Next up, Warriors starter Katherine Clark delivered an RBI single. Then, No. 8 hitter Brittany Perdigao beat out an infield hit, scoring Clark.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Warriors, however. The top-seeded Green Wave (21-2) crawled back within a run at 5-4 in the fifth inning.
Lead-off hitter Mackenzie Gillis hit an RBI double to left-center; she later came around to score on Stephanie Cornish’s two-out single.
On the following play, in a scary moment, Cornish went sliding into second base on Haylee Rogers’ infield hit. Cornish slid safely into the bag, but her left spike dug into the clay. Play was stopped for nearly 20 minutes as Cornish was taken by ambulance to Taunton’s Morton Hospital with a broken ankle.
When play resumed, Clark got Alex Powers to pop out to second with the bases loaded to close the inning.
“We had a good rally going there,” Abington head coach Ernie Ortega said. “The kids played hard. They gave up a few more errors than you can commit against a team like Coyle, they take the extra bases. We prepared as well as we could for them, but they played better.”
The Green Wave committed three errors in the field, providing the Warriors with several extra outs.
“That’s kinda’ how we play,” Bumila said of C-C’s aggressive play on the base paths, “we go all out and we try to make them make mistakes and put pressure.”
Katelyn McCarthy earned the save after entering the game for Clark in the sixth. McCarthy retired the final four Green Wave batters in order. Clark earned the win, scattering six hits over 5 2/3 innings while allowing three earned runs and striking out four.
“It’s been a full team effort,” Hunt said. “They’ve all given it all that they possibly can, you’ve got to appreciate that.”
Fifth seed C-C will face No. 2 seed Hopkinton for the D2 South title Monday at Taunton High. First pitch is at 7 p.m.
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