Boston High School: Nikki Murphy

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.”

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.”

Recap: No. 15 Grafton 1, No. 6 Hudson 0

May, 23, 2012
HUDSON, Mass. -- As good as the Grafton Indians have excelled on the softball diamond this season, and lets face facts you cannot do much better than going undefeated, they still had a major obstacle to climb to prove they belonged in softball’s upper-echelon class.

Tonight, against highly-formidable Hudson, was the opportunity the Indians had been longing for.

In one of the most highly-anticipated games of the season, Grafton pitcher Kendal Roy was dominant inside the circle as she held the mighty Hawks offense in check throughout and come away with a 1-0 victory.

“I had been waiting for this game for weeks,” said Roy, a sophomore who surrendered five hits and struck out 12, and now has an ERA well under 1.00. “All of us have been mentally preparing for this game for quite some time. We knew right from the very start tonight that we had to come out and play well against a very good Hudson team and I think we definitely proved ourselves.”

With the win, Grafton improves to 18-0 while Hudson saw its 12-game win streak come to an end as they fall to 15-3. It would come as a surprise to no one to see these two bona fide programs lock horns again during next month’s the Division 2 postseason tournament.

“Kendal did a great job," Grafton coach John Gemme said. “I think Hudson made some adjustments late in the game at the plate and were starting to get the bat on the ball a little better. But overall she pitched great. I think we are certainly right in the mix of things now because that was a very tough team we beat."

For her part, Hawks pitcher Jurnee Ware did everything she could do to keep her team in this battle. Ware allowed four hits while striking out 10. Knowing that runs would be at a premium because of the quality of pitching from both sides, the Indians got the only run they would need in the second inning.

Andrea Vulter led things off by laying down a bunt single. The senior then proceeded to steal second and third.

One out later, Kate Cardoza’s bunt attempt was caught by Hudson first baseman Marie Hydro. Once contact with the ball was made, Vulter had made worked her way well down the line from third. Hydro, upon seeing this, had an easy pickoff play in front of her as Vulter retreated and sprinted back toward third. However, Hydro rushed her throw to shortstop Jill Cedrone, covering on the play, and the ball sailed high over Cendrone’s head allowing Vulter to change direction and trot home.

Grafton had a chance to add to its lead in the fourth. Roy and Tara Faford began the frame with back-to-back singles. Ware then bore down getting Vulter to fly out and striking out Michelle Goulet. On the swinging strike, Faford had crept to far from first base. Hawks catcher Chelsey Scovil fired to second baseman Kara Knights, covering on the play, and a rundown ensued. Makayla Ritzie, pinch-running for Roy, took off for third. Knights turned and threw to third nailing Ritzie ending the threat.

With Roy on cruise control, hitting all her spots around the plate, things were beginning to look bleak for Hudson as the frustration level continued to mount into the late innings. A ray of hope finally came the Hawks way in their final at bats. Scovil opened the seventh by ripping a shot over the head of center fielder Nikki Murphy. After reaching second base, Scovil was waved on by Hudson coach Steve Martin to keep running. Murphy retreated the ball and fired a perfect strike to shortstop Marissa Ruggiero, who then relayed a throw to Faford at third who tagged Scovil out.

“I made a mistake and shouldn’t have sent her,” Martin said. “That one is on me. But overall we played great against a fantastic pitcher. We played hard and fought right to the very end. This was such a good game. I hope we see them again.”