Eric Emmerling's Diamond Notes: Appreciation day for Alvirne’s Abreu
The senior starter had a true appreciation for the moment, having conducted a solitary celebration from her living room couch the year before, when Alvirne won the first championship for the school in any sport in almost two decades. The surgeon denied Abreu's attendance because she had undergone surgery only days earlier.
A starter since her freshman season, she injured her knee at the Broncos' first practice of 2011. Though hobbled, she attended every game that season, save the last two.
'I was going crazy not being there and was texting parents of players that were at the games (semis and final),' said Abreu. 'I'd been playing with those guys since we were 7 years old and wanted to be there to witness them make history for our school. So I was very thankful for being there this time and had no problem with anyone watching my tears of joy.'
After months of rehab, Abreu started every game and called virtually every pitch this season.
'I was a little nervous with her coming into the season,' said Alvirne coach Sarah Brisk. 'But that didn't last long. She's a motivating force on the team. She calls a great game, frames pitches well and is very aggressive throwing to bases and keeping runners close.'
After teammate Chelsey Drew's two-run homer highlighted a three-run rally in the top of the first and the Broncos defense limited Salem's retaliatory strike to just one run in the bottom of the frame, Abreu worked with two-time New Hampshire Gatorade Softball Player of the Year, pitcher Taylor Carbone, to allow just two baserunners from the second through sixth innings.
Abreu signaled for the pitches and Carbone hit the spot, allowing just five hits and one walk to the Salem lineup. At one point, the battery, with considerable help from the defense, retired 15 of 16 batters.
'We developed a game plan and stuck to it. They got the hits on mistakes when I called the wrong pitch,' said Abreu who will catch for Plymouth State University next season.
'Taylor came up with big pitches,' said Harold Sachs, coach of a Salem team that plated 178 runs in 19 regular-season games and scored 31 times in three previous tourney wins. 'We've hit her a lot harder, but (Saturday) we just couldn't get anything going.'
Salem beat Alvirne, 6-3, about one month ago.
'The first inning you always have to figure out the umpire's strike zone,' Carbone said. 'Nicole did a great job behind the plate. We definitely made adjustments after that, trying to get ahead in the count and chase something.'
IN HER LAST AT-BAT of her scholastic career, Sam Broderick converted the first pitch she saw into a two-out walk-off RBI single, earning her undefeated Wilton-Lyndeborough an extra-inning 1-0 win over third-seeded Profile of Bethlehem to claim the Division IV championship.
The senior, who battled a knee injury for most of the season, also served as the winning pitcher, striking out six while walking three and allowing five hits.
Broderick spent the season tinkering with her pitching mechanics to compensate for the knee injury, determined to get her team back to the title game. In 2011, a quarterfinal loss snapped the Warriors' streak of six straight championship game appearances. They took home championship plaques in 2007 and 2008.
The club averaged more than 12 runs while winning every game heading into the final with Profile. There, Broderick's single ended a pitchers' duel with Katelyn Austin, a sophomore who threw a five-hitter with 12 strikeouts.
TWO ROOKIE COACHES claimed softball championships this season. Brisk, a former Alvirne standout and 1996 grad who coached many Broncos in summer and rec leagues, guided her alma mater to a second straight crown. New skipper Kim Grenon's nerves were tested during Portsmouth's championship journey. The Clippers needed a come-from-behind rally in the seventh inning to post a walk-off win in the semifinal and had to withstand a strong last-inning comeback bid from No. 3 Kennett of Conway in the championship.
'It was a pretty dramatic way to win,' said Grenon.
THE GRANITE STATE GAMES commence at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening at Plymouth State University, showcasing the best senior softball players from each of the four divisions in a doubleheader. The New Hampshire Softball Coaches' Association will also honor its Coach and Player of the Year selections. The Player of the Year and Coach of the Year represented the same team in each division with Nicole Gubellini and Harold Sachs of Salem in Div. I, Hollis/Brookline's Kirstin Bergen and Timothy Girzone in Div. II, Sydney Strout and Joan Forge of Gilford in Div. III and Wilton-Lyndeborough's Broderick and Dennis Calire in Div. IV.
Eric Emmerling covers high school baseball and softball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.