Extra Special Win
WESTFORD -- The Chelmsford High softball team made the most of its opportunity to make a favorable first impression.
In a season opener that featured big flies, numerous web gems and strong pitching, Chelmsford made Dana Degen’s debut as head coach a successful one.
Rachel Lalumiere belted a three-run home run in the top of the eighth inning and pitched three scoreless innings while earning the win in relief as Chelmsford outlasted Westford Academy, 6-3, in a non-league thriller.
Westford’s Ryan McAuley hit a two-run homer that evened the score, 3-3, in the bottom of the fifth.
Catcher Sydney Alto had a big day at the plate for the Lions, finishing a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
Alto banged out three hits, including a solo homer, and scored two runs.
“It was just a really good game that went back and forth,” said Degen, who played softball at the University of Hawaii. “I enjoyed it. (Westford is) a well coached team. It was a good game to watch as a spectator, but it was an exciting game to coach as well.
“I’m new to softball in Massachusetts. But this looked like more of a game you’d see toward the end of the season based on the quality of softball you saw, on both sides. It had a little bit of everything. I’m excited for them to get their first win. It’s a good way to start their journey this season.”
In the top of the eighth, Abby Cassidy smacked a leadoff single. Angela Vignola followed with a sacrifice bunt and reached on an error on the play. Lalumiere then launched a booming three-run homer to right field.
“You know, I was thinking of making her bunt,” said Degen. “You know it puts pressure on the defense. We were talking about it and we didn’t go with it and she was pretty happy. She put a really good swing on the ball. She got a good piece.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Chelmsford’s Kira Garrity robbed Maeve Proulx of a leadoff homer with a spectacular diving catch over the center field fence.
“That was a big play because if you give up a home run in the first at-bat in that situation it can kind of deflate the defense,” said Degen. “So for her to come up with that catch was really important.”
Westford (0-2) stranded the potential go-ahead run in the sixth and the potential winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
″(Chelmsford) hit extremely well,” said Westford coach Peter Burr. “I thought we played well. I think this team has a lot of character. I think the girls stayed in it right to the very end. We had great enthusiasm in the dugout. The girls played hard. I’m very proud of the team.”
In the top of the first, Alto doubled and scored on a double by Emma Gelineau.
Westford came right back and tied the score, 1-1, in the bottom half of the first on a run by Kaitlyn Chiasson.
Chelmsford took a 2-1 lead in the second as Vignola doubled and scored on Natalie Tierney’s RBI single. Alto homered to center field to increase Chelmsford’s lead to 3-1 in the third.
But the Grey Ghosts refused to fold. With one down in the fifth, Meghan Mulhern reached on an infield single and McAuley, who bats ninth, followed with a game-tying two-run homer.
“She’s been swinging the bat well in practice,” said Burr. “I actually put her there to kind of spin the order around and it worked out today.”
Meghan Goode had three hits, including a double, while Tierney notched two hits for the Lions.
Haley Looney was Chelmsford’s starting pitcher. She limited Westford to five hits and only two earned runs.
Madelyn Boyer and Proulx each smacked a double for Westford.
“You don’t think you are going to be this excited so early in the season,” said Degen. “The stuff they’ve been working on in practice they applied today. They all contributed. It was neat to see. I’m really proud of them.”
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi