Published in the May 3, 2019 edition.
By EMMA LAMBIASO
WAKEFIELD — Any matchup between town rivals Wakefield and Melrose is guaranteed to be intense, but the game played on Wednesday at Veterans Field really had softball fans on the edge of their seats. Between close calls, two players on a base at once, infinite timeouts and a nail-biting last play, this was definitely a game to remember.
“That was one of the weirdest games I’ve ever been involved in, baseball or softball,” commented Wakefield head coach Chris Tolios.
The game started off well for the Warriors, as they took an early lead of two runs, while shutting out the Red Raiders for the first two innings.
Wakefield started building momentum with their leadoff hitter junior Katie Pearl, who placed a perfect bunt on the third base line, her speed allowing her to beat the throw to first base easily. Things progressed from there until the bases were loaded with Sophia Gosselin-Smoske at the plate. The junior left fielder waited for the right pitch and ended up with a walk to first, bringing home the first run of the game. The Warriors did not get any more hits for the rest of the inning, but Taylor Owen managed to steal home on a passed ball with some good base running.
The score remained 2-0 Wakefield throughout the second inning, but the game took a turn for the worse for the home team as Melrose started placing fly balls to open pockets of the field. Coupled with a handful of steals that got them into scoring positions, the Red Raiders claimed four runs in the top of the third. With each hit, Wakefield seemed to get more and more flustered, making some errors that didn’t help their cause. Now down by two, Wakefield had to decide whether they would fight back or let Melrose expand their lead.
Since this was the WMHS softball team, they of course chose to retaliate, turning the tide at the start of the fourth with three consecutive outs from varsity veterans Julia DiFazio, Claire Curry, and Juliette Guanci.
Offense was key in this moment for the Warriors, but it did not start off well. They quickly accumulated two outs in the bottom of the fourth.
However, Alexis Comeau flipped the switch, sending a beautiful hit between the Melrose center and right fielders. The rally continued with a walk for Bella Zullo, who followed Comeau home when Pearl hit a two-run single to the outfield. All tied up, Wakefield had the chance to take the lead. Melrose, feeling the pressure, overthrew the ball on two plays in a row, allowing Pearl to find her way around all four bases. Best described in the words of Coach Tolios, “It was contagious”. In total, the Warriors got eight hits in the fourth inning, leading 7-4 going into the fifth.
From then on, the two teams were locked in a battle, both succeeding on offense and defense.
Wakefield’s quick infielders kept most Melrose hitters to single bases or none at all. In return, the Melrose center fielder managed to rob Wakefield of some fantastic hits. Nevertheless, the Warriors started to outplay the Red Raiders. The Melrose pitcher started to get shaky, while Wakefield pitcher, junior Sophia Tremblay remained stable, striking out three batters in the sixth inning. By the time the seventh inning had rolled around, Wakefield had extended their lead by another two runs, making the score 12-7.
It had been a very unsettling and strange game. A misunderstanding with the umpire had led to two Melrose players occupying the same base. The Melrose pitcher had also taken a bullet hit to the ankle. Wakefield was ready to put the Red Raiders away and end the craziness. All they had to do was get three outs.
But the away team was not ready to leave just yet.
The first two Melrose hitters both slammed extra-base knocks to deep left field. One run in. Tremblay finished off her night with one more strikeout before Coach Tolios brought in pitcher Kayleigh Callanan to close out the game.
An infield pop from the next hitter was caught by Comeau at second for the second out. But a passed ball gave the Melrose player on third the opportunity to slide home.
It eventually came down to runners at first and third with the tying run coming up to the plate. The proven Melrose heavy hitter soon reached a full count against Callanan.
The field players were on their toes, the baserunners ready to take off at the crack of the bat but all they heard was the thud of Kayleigh’s pitch hitting catcher Claire Curry’s mitt for the final strike.
Game over, 12-9 Wakefield.