(Berlin Citizen exclusive)
VERNON – The clouds were gathering in the first inning.
The Berlin High softball team used its patented small-ball style of offense to load the bases with no outs, but Rockville’s All-State pitcher Kaitlyn Lajoie struck out the third and fourth hitters in the Redcoats order.
Early momentum, so vital in a game where runs would almost surely be at a premium, was hanging in the balance. Exactly which way the game would turn rested with the next hitter, pitcher Makayla Harris.
Harris consummated a long at-bat with a two-run double to left and went on to pitch a gem in a 3-0 whitewash of the defending Class L champion and third-seeded Rams in a quarterfinal clash May 31 in the stifling heat at Rockville High School.
The memory of last year’s tournament ouster was thick in the air.
The sixth-seeded Redcoats were one pitch away from securing a second-round win at Brookfield 364 days earlier, but wound up losing 3-2 in eight innings. Berlin coach Jason Pires analyzed the game ad nauseam and took full responsibility. Harris, just a sophomore at the time, gained the kind of experience that nothing but playing the game can teach.
“I’d be lying if I said last year didn’t cross my mind when the bottom of the seventh started,” Pires said. “We’re not that team. I knew it wouldn’t happen again. I knew we were winning this game when it got to the seventh.”
Lajoie and Harris waged a memorable battle as opposing pitchers. Each gave up only three hits. Neither issued any walks. Lajoie struck out 10 and Harris countered with nine. The first inning at-bat was a microcosm of their personal battle.
Brittany Sullivan began the game by beating out a bunt. Megan Wicander tapped back to the mound but with the first baseman charging, the bag was left uncovered. Courtney Silvia slapped a grounder toward the hole. Third baseman Megan Gardiner made a diving stop, but Sullivan beat the throw to shortstop Emily Burg covering.
“We knew their game plan,” Rockville coach Frank Levick said. “We knew that first inning they were going to bunt the first four or five batters. Kids just didn’t cover the bags.
Two outs later, the burden of producing runs was on Harris.
In the midst of a 10-pitch at-bat, she rifled a liner outside the bag at third and it struck Sullivan in foul territory. Harris got a chance to breathe as the trainer tended to Sullivan. Emily Ference came on to pinch-run.
When a Lajoie delivery bounced to the backstop, Ference boldly dashed home with the first run.
“Put her name out there front and center,” Pires said. “Emily Ference doesn’t play much. She was a jayvee player a lot of the year. She came in in the hugest spot and that was an enormous thing she did taking off on that. We made them make the play and that was what we preached.
“I can’t be yelling at you to go or not go. You’ve got to make the decision and it’s got to be immediate and she got in.”
Harris ripped a double to left scoring the game’s final runs.
“I took a big breath and I was ready,” she said. “I had time to settle down [after the line drive struck Sullivan]. The team would have been a little more rattled if [the productive at-bat] hadn’t happened, but I’m sure we would have gotten pumped up in the end.”
As Pires said, Harris was the rest of the story.
A two-out error and a single by Stephanie Kurowski put runners at the corners for Rockville (20-2) in the second but Harris retired the side on a comebacker. Rockville managed an infield hit in the third and a single to center by Michelle Correia in the fourth but neither made it to second base.
Harris retired the final nine hitters.
“Makayla is not overpowering but no one hits spots like Makayla,” Pires said. “They’re not the first team that’s been frustrated by her. They think they’re going to smack her all over the place. They don’t and they don’t know why.
“It’s not fast but every pitch moves. Nothing is where they think it’s going to be. She throws three pitches and she throws them all well.”
Sullivan returned to the game after sustaining the ankle and was none the worse for wear.
Wicander made a running catch of a line drive by Rockville cleanup hitter Courtney Oliva leading off the fourth inning among her three putouts. Third baseman Kaitlyn Guild had two assists and a putout. Harris fielded her position flawlessly with two assists, as did first baseman Kat Burek with six putouts.
The Redcoats (20-3) advance to the semifinals to meet undefeated, second-seeded Masuk. Site and time were unavailable at press time.
CLASS L SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT
Berlin 6, Rockville 4
(May 31, Rockville High)
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Sullivan ss 3 0 1 0 Skoly lf 3 0 1 0
Ference pr 0 1 0 0 Burg ss 3 0 0 0
Wicander lf 3 1 0 0 Lajoie p 3 0 0 0
Silvia cf 3 1 0 0 Oliva rf 3 0 0 0
Guild 3b 3 0 1 0 Pettengill c 3 0 0 0
Burek 1b 3 0 0 0 Correia 2b 3 0 1 0
Harris p 3 0 1 2 Kurowski cf 2 0 1 0
Anderson rf 3 0 0 0 Turgeon ph 1 0 0 0
Veach dp 2 0 0 0 Gardiner 3b 2 0 0 0
Germano 2b 0 0 0 0 Ose 1b 2 0 0 0
Asal ph 1 0 0 0
Patterson c 2 0 0 0
Totals 26 3 3 2 Totals 25 0 3 0
Berlin 300 000 0 – 3 3 1
Rockville 000 000 0 – 0 3 0
E –Sullivan. LOB – Berlin 2, Rockville 4. 2B – Harris.
ip h r er bb so
Harris W 7 3 0 0 0 9
Lajoie L 7 3 3 3 0 10
WP – Lajoie. T – 1:23. A – 120.
Records – Berlin 20-3; Rockville 20-2.