NASHUA — In prior years, a mental gaffe, much like the one committed by Manchester Memorial during Friday’s NHIAA Division I softball contest against Nashua North, would have most likely turned into a calamity.
But perhaps the tide has finally turned. The Crusaders displayed a certain level of resourcefulness in overcoming their mistake by remaining on task as they pushed across a run in the seventh inning to upend the Titans 2-1.
“I was really impressed in how we played,” said Memorial coach Rachel Hedge-Dahmke, a former Crusader pitching standout. “The mistake that we made, I own that. It’s on me. But it didn’t hurt us. I think in the past, it would’ve destroyed this team. But not anymore. In fact, I feel it gave us extra motivation and it shows that we have heart and are committed to being a solid unit.”
Leading by a run through five innings, Memorial handed the Titans a run in the bottom of the sixth to even things. With one out, North junior Emily Blondin doubled and advanced to third following a ground out. MacKenzie Tanner, at the plate, had a 2-1 count on her before waving at an outside fastball.
The Crusaders, thinking it was the third strike, quickly sprinted off the field toward their dugout. However, Titans coach Jenna Giannelli, coaching third base, and Blondin quickly realized it was only strike number two. Blondin then sprinted home to make it 1-1. At that moment, it would have been easy for Memorial to fold its tent and wallow in self-pity.
However, in the top half of the seventh, the Crusaders placed runners at the corners with two outs. Alyssa Soucy (three hits) delivered a hard single to the left side that scored the eventual game-winner.
With both teams playing a bit shorthanded because of injury and sickness, Memorial was able to even its record at 1-1. North dropped to 0-1.
“For what we had out there, I think we played really well,” Giannelli said. “We hit the ball hard today. I think this was a good starting point for us in terms of this being our first game. I think we can only go up from here.”
The Crusaders were able to jump on the Titans in the initial frame. Singles by Morgan Leonard and Emersyn Provencher led to a Soucy run-scoring double.
The Titans had a golden opportunity to create some havoc in their half of the third after loading the bases with none out. But Soucy, Memorial’s starting pitcher, was able to escape trouble after inducing a couple of comebackers that resulted in forced outs at the plate, along with a ground out to keep the Crusaders in front.
“That motivated us a lot,” Soucy said. “I know that I can count on my defense to pick me up when I am having a bad day. I see us as a team that will progress in a positive way throughout the season. We all believe.”
Both clubs continued their aggressive style at the plate, yet failed to produce runs. Memorial finished with 13 hits, stranding 11. North banged out seven hits but left seven on the base paths.
“We do feel that if we can put runners on base then the runs will eventually come for us,” Hedge-Dahmke said.
Continuing to preach the positives, Hedge-Dahmke refused to let her team get down on themselves after the Titans tied things in the sixth. Her consistent upbeat mannerisms certainly carried over to her team as they were able to regroup and respond and come away victorious.
“I am all about the positive mentality here,” said Hedge-Dahmke. “Nobody thrives on negative attitude. If you are thinking positively that will eventually come into play. I want these girls to believe in themselves because we have plenty of talent.”
Rebecca Sergi contributed three hits for the Crusaders, while teammate Emily Philbert added a pair. Thavary Hay and Blondin each had two hits for the Titans.