PLYMOUTH — There’s no greater feeling than to go out on top.
White Mountains senior Mikala Bastian earned that right, throwing the last pitch of the Division III softball championship to give her third-seeded Spartans their first title in the 13-4 victory over No. 3 Stevens of Claremont on Saturday at Plymouth State University.
After sophomore Erika Millett shut down the Cardinals’ bats for the first five innings, White Mountains coach Forrest Hicks decided to hand his senior the ball for the final two.
“Erika did very well and I think she got a little tight because she was excited, but she did well,” said Hicks. “But we wanted our senior to finish this.”
Bastian closed the door on Stevens, getting a 1-2-3 sixth inning with two strikeouts and closing out the seventh despite allowing two runs. The game was already out of hand at that point.
Millett allowed two earned runs on eight hits over the first five, striking out seven.
“It feels great to be a senior and finish out the championship game,” said Bastian. “I went through this for basketball too and I was nervous, but I’m glad I got to pitch the last inning. Before I went out there coach told me to pitch as hard as I can, snap the ball, and get through it. And I did.”
Freshman Rebecca Hicks led the way on offense for the Spartans (18-2), driving in four runs on a triple, two doubles, and a single, while scoring twice.
“I’ve been playing for a really long time and I just really wanted it and did my best. I wasn’t thinking about anything ahead of what was going on at the moment so I think that helped me,” said the daughter of Coach Hicks. “I was nervous in the first inning but the triple helped me get over it. Finally I just took it play by play and it seemed to work out good.”
White Mountains was able to attack Cardinals pitcher Alyssa Nichols all game long, tagging her for 17 hits over her seven innings of work. Nadia Wasuta had a big three-run blast in the second to make the game 5-0 and later added an RBI double and a single. Bryanna Bennett reached base three times with two singles and a walk, driving in a pair.
“We hit the ball very well today. We prepared. (Nichols) is a good pitcher so we knew that she was going to throw a lot of strikes and be around the plate,” said the elder Hicks. “Rebecca hit the ball well today. Nadia Wasuta with the three-run homer was big but they all played well, they’re a good group of kids and they all play together. Congratulations to Stevens. They had a great season. We were just fortunate today to come out on top.”
The Cardinals had 11 hits in the game, but were unable to capitalize on their opportunities. Costly errors in the field dug Stevens a hole that they weren’t able to climb out of.
“I wanted it to be a better game and I thought it should have been a better game,” said Stevens coach Melissa Nichols. “This is the worst we’ve played. Everything that could go against us went against us, and everything that could go wrong went wrong.”
Danielle Tenney led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo shot to put the Cardinals (19-2) on the board. She finished with two hits and a pair of RBIs. Megan Estabrook had two singles and drove in a run. Nichols had an RBI double in the fifth but her team didn’t help her out in the field.
“Nothing went wrong with (Nichols). We make those plays during the year and it is what it is. I don’t think she pitched poorly, but she had to pitch a lot because we made a lot of mistakes,” said the Stevens coach. “So you have to expect when you’re at the championship game the other team is going to hit the ball. “The last four games, every team has been hitting the ball throughout because they deserve to be here.”
The game was the first Divison III finals appearance for both teams.
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Pat DeCola may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.