AMHERST — No. 12 Pelham, dominated in two regular-season games by fifth-ranked Souhegan of Amherst, gave the Sabers all they could handle Wednesday in a 3-2 loss in the first round of the Division II softball tournament.
Souhegan (13-4) will visit No. 4 John Stark on Saturday in the quarterfinals.
Pelham (8-9), which lost to Souhegan 17-0 in its two previous matchups, played its most complete game of the season, and stood tied with the Sabers 2-2 after scoring a run in the top of the fourth.
But in the Sabers’ half of the frame, Megan Tupaj and Ava Van Ballegooyen singled. Jenna Speer fielder’s choice loaded the bases. With Danielle Drobat at the plate, a passed ball allowed Tupaj to sprint home, putting Souhegan ahead to stay. Pythons pitcher Abby Provencal (eight hits, two walks, 5 strikeouts) limited the damage to just the run.
Sabers junior ace Cameron Whitney, who dazzled, proceeded to set Pelham down in order over the final three innings for the victory. Whitney, a right-hander, allowed six hits and one walk, and fanned nine.
“She is very crafty, she mixes it up and she throws strikes,” said Souhegan coach Tony Doucet. “She doesn’t throw hard but you look and she doesn’t allow too many hits. She battled today for all seven innings, and she got better as the game went on.”
The Pythons grabbed a 1-0 lead in the opening frame. Skyy Ortega doubled and later scored on Julia Vawter’s single. One inning later, Souhegan responded. A Callie McBride RBI double and a Whitney run-scoring single put the Sabers ahead 2-1. The Sabers wasted a chance to add to their lead in the third after loading the bases with none out. But two force outs at the plate followed by a strikeout snuffed out the threat. Souhegan left 10 runners on base.
“The girls came to play today,” Pythons coach Todd Lozeau said. “They wanted this. I’m really proud of them. We were maybe one or two hits from going to the quarterfinals. The girls just left it all out on the field. So we will use this game as stepping stone because we only lose our catcher going into next season.”
In the Pelham fourth, Lanna Pierce led off by rocketing a double to left. One out later, Ashley Phillips ripped a hard single up the middle, plating Pierce with the tying run. But the Pythons’ bats went silent thereafter thanks to Whitney.
“Mary Rothoff, my catcher, and I practice a lot on locating pitches,” said Whitney. “We kind of feel things out as the game goes on. We try to keep opposing batters on their toes by mixing it up a lot.”