(Byfield MA) A year ago Burlington’s Christina Clark struck out seventeen Triton Vikings on her way to a 9-0 first round win in the D2 North softball tournament.
With that in the back of my head, I went over to Triton today wondering what to expect a year later in a quarterfinals matchup between the same two teams.
Burlington (17-4) prevailed, 2-1, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and will go on to face Gloucester in the D2 North semifinals.
As far as pitcher Christina Clark is concerned, she’s still an overwhelming presence. Today she recorded nine strikeouts and allowed only one hit. The Vikings had only three baserunners and little good contact off the junior.
“When it comes to softball it’s all about pitching,” said Triton coach Dave Dupere afterwards. “Their pitcher (Christina Clark) was tough to hit. She hit her spots, changed speed and had a good curve ball. We don’t see her speed very often.”
“Christina did well today getting ahead of hitters,” said Burlington coach Kristen Farrell.” Even the balls they put in play weren’t necessarily hit hard.”
Lost in the deserved excitement over the pitching of Christina Clark was Katherine Quigley’s performance for the (17-3) Vikings. The sophomore limited the Devils to five hits and retired the last eight batters she faced.
“It was huge for us to do so much better than last time against them,” said Katherine. “I felt that I threw a lot harder today than I did in the win over Saugus. I was more confident and relaxed today.”
Christina Clark retired the last eleven Vikings she faced. “I was feeling the energy of the team as the game went on,” said Christina. “I knew that I had a great defense behind me.”
The Devils had only one error (3B Sydney Shinopulos throw) and Triton turned it into a run in the second inning. Bridget Sheehan walked and reached 3B when Sydney’s attempt to turn a grounder into a force-out went past second allowing Bridget to reach third with one out. Senior Liv Doane’s slow roller to second enabled Bridget to score.
Burlington came back to tie the game in the top of the third inning. Erin Browne’s bunt (down the first baseline) forced a wide throw by catcher Liv Doane. Erin stole second with two outs and came home on Chloe McGonagle’s single to right.
The visitors put together the eventual game winner in their half of the 4th. Christina Clark reached on a leadoff blooper over third base. Fran Rubino sacrificed Christina to second before freshman Sydney Shinopulos dropped an 0-2 single into right scoring Christina. Christina slid in but as my picture above shows she was in well ahead of the throw.
“Getting a runner in scoring position with Chloe up or Sydney up, you know things could happen,” said Coach Farrell. “We have not had a lot of timely hitting this season.”
The improved defense was a factor for Triton in their very successful season. LF Grace McGonagle made several nice running catches for the Vikings. “Our defense was lights out again,” said Coach Dupere.
Both Coach Farrell and Christina Clark commended Triton.
“Triton hung tough,” said Coach Farrell.
Much improved over last year.”
“This was a very different game than last year,” said Christina. “They had a good defense.”
The Devils now return again to the D2 North semifinals and will face Gloucester on Wednesday in Lowell. North Reading will also be in the semifinals at the same place and on the same date.
Encouraging for Triton that the three losses this season were against two teams (North Reading & Burlington) which have now reached the D2 North semifinals.
“Burlington was probably the best team we’ve faced all year and we probably played our best game of the year,” recalled Coach Dupere.
Coach Dupere: “Katherine (Quigley) changed her speeds. She’s got three different speeds. She’s tough to hit.”
Coach Farrell: “Any win in the postseason is a good win. Our defense was solid, and our pitcher had a really great game. She had big strikeouts when we needed them.”
Coach Dupere: “I came into this season with high expectations, but the girls exceeded them. We’re losing four important seniors, but we have the nucleus back and we have some good players coming up. We’re going to be a force to be reckoned with next year.”
Plenty of sunshine today but the game was so quick that the tanning/burning was limited!
If I could give Triton softball two pieces of advice they would be these: Schedule twenty games instead of eighteen. Seventeen days off before the playoffs is unconscionable. The other thing would be to get a perennial tournament team like St.Mary’s, Burlington, Whittier on the schedule to prep Triton for tournament pitching and hitting.
Nice to see some of the Pentucket players on hand. They lost in the first round to Burlington, 5-1.
Burlington has been the champs of the Middlesex League for seven straight years.
Sophomore Chloe McGonagle was the only player with two hits in the game.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)