Boston High School: Jessie Pratt

D1 Central/West: Holy Name 6, Westfield 1

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
WORCESTER, Mass. -- The transcendent climb of the Holy Name softball team did not begin in the postseason. In fact, it started a week prior when the Naps defeated then-unbeaten Nashoba Regional.

That victory game Holy Name a huge lift. One it hasn't come down from since.

On Wednesday night, the Naps faced another unbeaten foe and yet again, took care of business, upending West champion Westfield, 6-1, in the Division 1 state semifinal played at Rockwood Field.

Holy Name (22-2) will square off against Bridgewater-Raynham (24-1) there on Saturday for the state title beginning at 7 p.m. The Naps have played in the state final six times and have yet to win a title.

"Nashoba was the best team and were undefeated and had a great pitcher," Naps head coach Aimee Lee said. "After beating them I think it was a high for us and I think we haven't come down from it and we're still going."

Holy Name took advantage of a few Bombers' jitters in the first inning to take a 3-0 lead. It remained that way until Westfield (23-1) got a run back in the fifth. However, perhaps a bit complacent during the middle frames, the Naps offense re-awoke in their half of the seventh to put this game out of reach.

"I kept telling our girls in the later innings that I can't want this game more than them," Lee said. "I think once Westfield scored that run it brought us back to reality and we started hitting again in the seventh."

With Bridget Mias on base following a bunt single, senior Ama Biney smashed a triple to centerfield. A Heather Drummond (3 hits) double sent Biney to the plate. That was proceeded moments later by a Kelsey Saucier's RBI single and suddenly, Holy Name's was now up by five runs.

"It gets pretty exciting when everyone starts to hit the ball and everyone starts to get up again," Drummond said. "Then hits begin to string along and the other team gets down on themselves and we just keep it going. When we were up 3-1 I didn't feel safe. I wanted us to get more hits and more runs and we were able to."

Westfield, which defeated Longmeadow in the WMass final thanks to Annalise Eak's walk-off RBI single, appeared a bit nervous to start this contest and it eventually showed. Biney opened the first inning by reaching on an error. After stealing second, Drummond brought her home with a single. After Drummond advanced to third on a Saucier ground out, Bombers catcher Kaitlyn Puza tried to pick the junior off following a Sarah McNerney pitch. Unfortunately, the ball sailed into left field and Drummond scored easily with Holy Name's second run.

After Danielle Rocheleau kept the inning going with a single, Lauren Merritt hit a fly ball to centerfield that was dropped by Jessie Pratt. With Rocheleau now standing on third base, Deanna DiPilato sent her home with a ground out.

"I think we were a little tight early on," said Westfield head coach Joe Stella. "Holy Name overall has got to be the best team we've seen this year. They have pitching, defense, speed to burn and they can hit. I thought we calmed down after the first inning. We cut it to 3-1 and were getting our bats on the ball. But in the seventh things went the other way."

Saucer, Holy Name's senior ace pitcher, gave us six hits and struck out nine. McNerney, also a senior, surrendered 10 hits.

"We are a team that wants to score first," said Saucier, who will attend WPI next year. "Usually the team that scores first is the team that carries the momentum into the further innings. Westfield is a very good team. Even if we had a 10 run lead on that team you couldn't feel safe. That's why you have to play every inning as if it is your last and that's how we approached it."

Recap: No. 16 Westfield 1, No. 10 Longmeadow 0

May, 9, 2014
May 9
WESTFIELD, Mass. -- They possess all the bells and whistles to be a champion. But for the majority of the state's population that resides on the other side of the I-495 corridor, few people outside of Western Massachusetts know little, if anything, about the Westfield High softball team.

For the Bombers? They could care less about the lack of attention. To a player, this club understands the type of talent they have forged within their little inner circle here and that is the only thing of importance. This team can hit, can pitch, can play defense and aren't afraid to swipe bases at any given time. And, oh by the way, they are a perfect 15-0 after beating one of the state's premier pitchers in Longmeadow senior Jillian Stockley on Thursday.

Westfield parlayed a pair of first-inning singles into a run and made it stand up the rest of the way, edging the Lancers, 1-0.

Senior pitcher Sarah McNerney may not have the same type of velocity Stockley possesses, but was nonetheless brilliant on this day surrendering just one hit – a two-out single in the seventh — and no walks. Longmeadow (10-4) had difficulty with McNerney's low fastball and change of speeds. Often times the Lancers hitters found themselves out on their front foot, routinely killing worms with a plethora of ground balls and the occasional infield pop up. McNerney is not a strikeout pitcher. Instead, the right-hander relies heavily on the strong defensive unit playing behind her.

"My coaches stress low pitching," said McNerney. "He doesn't care about fancy pitches or anything else. He wants to see low pitches and good location. Knowing we're probably not going get the 10 hits we normally do against [Stockley], it does get a little more pressure-packed when you are on defense. We knew we had to just keep playing our game and that's what we did today."

Stockley was equally as dominant, giving up just three hits while striking out 14 (159 for the season).

The best way to get to the UConn-bound righty is to jump on her early and put runners into scoring position to keep the pressure on. Stockley has been known to get stronger as the game progresses and Westfield was well-aware of it. In the first inning, the Bombers followed that script perfectly.

Lead-off batter Jules Sharon opened by laying down a bunt for a single. The senior wasted little time advancing to second after a steal. One out later, Maddy Atkocaitis, the top hitter in Western Mass., who entered with 31 hits, 27 RBI and a .544 batting average, lined a curve ball up the middle to plate Sharon. As a result, that would be the only offense witnessed in this pitcher's duel.

"We were nice and strong today and never letdown our intensity," said Atkocaitis, a senior who will play a couple of miles down the road next season at Westfield State University. "You can never let up on anyone. We have a good social team here and that is what makes us a team. We're one big family."

In the Westfield half of the third, there was an opportunity pad its lead. After Stockley set down the first two batters, Jessie Pratt reached on an error and proceeded to steal second and third. Atkocaitis worked Stockley for a walk and, on the play, took off for second after noticing the Lancers weren't paying any attention to her. But Stockley got herself out of the jam by fanning Kaitlyn Puza.

In the Bombers' fourth, Karly Mestello led off by lining an opposite field single to right. But the junior never got beyond first base as Stockley retired the next three batters.

Meanwhile, McNerney was cruising right along and stood on the threshold of attaining her first career no-hitter. But with two out in the seventh, Ally Mishol put an end to it by beating out an infield single. With the milestone now passed, McNerney shrugged it off and got Shaylee Geier to bounce out to end the game.

"It was a heck of a game," Westfield head coach Joe Stella said. "Stockley is just an excellent pitcher but Sarah [McNerney] really stepped it up for us out there. She's got a bunch of pitches. She tries to keep teams off-balance and she doesn't walk many. She just gets the job done.

“Obviously, we can't overlook the defense behind her. It is a team game and that's one of the things the whole team brings. We've got a little offense and a little defense and Sarah help us on the mound. I felt there was a good chance today that one run would be enough for either team. We were fortunate to get it.”