Back and forth they went, trading zeroes on the scoreboard.
Falmouth’s Molly Bruce and Norton’s Sofia Knopf were locked in a fantastic pitcher’s duel over the first five innings of their MIAA Division 2 south quarterfinal showdown in Falmouth. Both pitchers carried no-hitters into the fifth inning, but Norton not only broke up Bruce’s bid at a no-no, but caught fire late in the game.
The Lancers broke through for three runs in the sixth and then three more in the seventh as they knocked off the Clippers by a 6-0 score to advance to the semifinals to meet Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech, the top seeded team in the tournament.
Bruce’s first four innings might have been her best four of the season. The senior allowed just one base runner, on a first inning error, and retired 11 in a row before Norton connected on a single to open the fifth. Janet Jolly singled to right-center to open that inning, but Bruce was able to leave her at third base by getting a ground ball, a fly out and a strikeout.
While Bruce was setting down members of the Lancers, Knopf was even more masterful against the Clippers. FHS connected for just two base hits in the game, and none over the first five innings. The hard thrower struck out 13 and set down 15 of the first 16 batters she faced in the game.
In the sixth a mistake led to the Clippers downfall. Knopf led off the sixth with a chopper just in front of the plate that Bruce had to hustle to. She hurried her throw on the play and sent the ball over the first baseman’s head and Knopf made it to third base. Another error allowed Knopf to score on a ground ball by Destiny McGrath.
Liv Menyo then reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on a ground ball. By the time the dust settled Falmouth had allowed three runs to Norton without surrendering a base hit in the inning. Three errors, a fielder’s choice, a sacrifice fly and a walk got the job done for the Lancers.
“We were right there, but one costly error let them score some runs and then they started to hit us a little bit,” Falmouth Coach Amy Bruce said. “We just couldn’t get our bat on the ball. I know that she’s a good pitcher coming in...she was a little faster than what we’re used to.”
FHS showed signs of life in the bottom of the inning. Freshman Rachelle Andrade broke up Knopf’s no-hit bid with a slow roller up the third base side that she beat out for a single. Knopf struck out the next two Clippers, but then FHS got a big break when Grace Kwon’s cue shot to first base spun off the first baseman’s glove, and FHS had runners at first and second with two out for one of their biggest bats.
Senior Maeve Cutter came to the plate in what turned out to be her final high school at-bat. The team’s starting catcher put a great swing on a fastball and smoke a shot toward the right-center gap, but NHS right fielder Abby Smigielski made the defensive play of the day, running it down for the final out of the inning.
The wind left the Clippers’ sails as Smigielski came up with the ball and the Clippers were further deflated as Norton put the game out of reach with another three-run rally in the seventh. Three straight hits, followed by a two-out triple from Nicole Grainger, left the home team down by six and with just three outs to work with.
Knopf made quick work of FHS in the seventh. Molly Bruce got a hit in her final at-bat, but the NHS pitcher struck out two and ended the game by getting Haylee Silvia to fly out to right field.
For Coach Bruce it was the final game that she will coach her daughter, Molly, who has been Falmouth’s starting pitcher the last several years. The pair finish their time in the dugout together having had one of the best seasons in FHS softball history. Falmouth won the Atlantic Coast League title and put up an 18-4 final record. Molly had the best season of her career, both pitching and as a hitter.
“It’s been 10 years of coaching her. This is tough,” Coach Bruce said. “It’s been great coaching her, and having that relationship. It’s brought us closer together, to have that bond.”
Not only was it the last game for the Bruces together, but also the final game for a core of seniors that have carried the team to new heights. Coach Bruce said that along with her daughter graduating, that losing Abby and Caiti Pope, Grace Kwon and Maeve Cutter, is hard.
“That whole group is really special. It’s been eight years with them (including youth softball),” Coach Bruce said. “I’m going to miss them.”
Falmouth 4, Dedham 2
Haylee Silvia was nervous, and that was understandable.
The freshman was hitless against Dedham so far with a couple of ground outs. The big hitter in front of her, Meghan Robbins, had just been intentionally walked so that she could be avoided. With the score tied at 2-2 and Falmouth’s postseason in jeopardy, Silvia was facing the biggest challenge of her young high school career.
“I worry a little bit too much. But I knew that if I focused, kept my eye on the ball and made good contact I could get the team up,” she said.
With Maeve Cutter, who doubled, standing at third, and Robbins at first, Silvia found herself behind in the count in the blink of an eye. Molly Egan left one over the middle of the plate, though, and Silvia squared it up. The freshman lined a single to right-center field to break the tie and give FHS a 3-2 lead.
“It was a smart decision. Haylee hasn’t been hitting too well, but she really came through when we needed her to,” Coach Amy Bruce said. “We got the hits when we needed them...we got it done, that’s all that matters.”
Fellow freshman Rachelle Andrade followed with a single of her own, that scored Robbins, and the two rookies played pivotal roles in Falmouth living to fight another die.
“It loved it. I love contributing to the team and helping the team get a win so we can move on in the playoffs,” Silvia said. “It was a big thing for me.”
Prior to the fifth inning heroics by the two freshmen, the game was a back-and-forth tussle. The Clippers broke to a 1-0 lead in the second inning thanks to a two-out single by Abby Pope down the left field line that scored Robbins, who had led off the frame with a hit. Dedham got that one back in the top of the third, but in the bottom of the same inning FHS struck again. Charlotte Sylvia led off with a double to center and came in on a hit by Robbins. Dedham tied it in the top of the fifth, but then came the big moments by Silvia and Andrade.
With the lead in hand, Molly Bruce put away the visitors by setting down the last seven batters in a row that she faced. Overall she gave up two runs, one earned, on five hits. She struck out six and walked none.