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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Campbell will face White Mountains for softball crown

PLYMOUTH – At about 7 p.m. Wednesday night, Joe Raycraft looked like the cat that just caught the canary. Actually, to be more accurate, the bird was an oriole.

The Cougars coach had a simple message for his Campbell High School softball team heading into Wednesday afternoon’s Division III semifinal: Attack. ...

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PLYMOUTH – At about 7 p.m. Wednesday night, Joe Raycraft looked like the cat that just caught the canary. Actually, to be more accurate, the bird was an oriole.

The Cougars coach had a simple message for his Campbell High School softball team heading into Wednesday afternoon’s Division III semifinal: Attack.

The third-seeded Cougars (16-3) did just that against second-seeded Conant (18-1), scoring runs in all but the first inning off Orioles pitching on their way to a 14-5 win and a chance to defend their title at 4 p.m. Saturday against top-seeded White Mountains (19-0).

The Spartans (19-0), who Campbell beat for the title last spring, return to the final with a 7-0 win over fourth-seeded Pelham (13-5).

Campbell senior captain Brittany McNulla (3 for 5, two RBIs) took her coach’s message to heart every time she stepped in the batter’s box.

“We wanted to get ahead early,” McNulla said. “We know how good they are and that their game is getting ahead and being comfortable with a lead. We wanted to get our bats going and make things uncomfortable for them.”

After a scoreless first inning, Campbell got to work. Meaghan Coughlin doubled to lead off the second and came home on an Amber Gibbons single for a 1-0 lead. It became 2-0 when Gianna Cataldo drove in Gibbons.

It opened up to 5-0 in the third inning as Hannah Neild scored on a passed ball, McNulla came in on an single by Emily Paquin, who came around to score on a Carrie Fernandez single. Another run in the fifth – Neild tripling and scoring on a McNulla grounder to shortstop – made it 6-0.

“That’s just what we wanted,” Raycraft said. “Conant is a team that has never trailed. We wanted to get a lead on them and apply some pressure.”

With six more runs in the top of the fifth, that pressure was most certainly applied. Coughlin doubled, Cataldo reached on a fielder’s choice, Fernandez doubled, Emma Kuczkowski was hit by a pitch, Lauren King doubled, Neild doubled and McNulla hit a sacrifice-fly to center field.

With a 12-0 lead and a chance to end the game in the bottom of the fifth, Paquin – who until that point had scattered three hits and struck out three – got into a minor jam. With two outs and nobody on, Paquin gave up two hits and a walk to load the bases.

Conant catcher Heather Bilodeau sent a shot to left for a ground-rule double scoring two and the shutout was no more. Bilodeau would end the rally on the next pitch. Grace Chadbourne singled to drive in Ivy Chalke from third. Bilodeau, wanting to make it a two-run single, tried for home as well. The relay throw from the outfield hit McNulla’s mitt as she blocked the plate from a sliding Bilodeau and applied the tag to end the inning.

Campbell got back to work at the plate in the sixth as Gibbons swatted a solo home run, and added another run in the seventh when McNulla scored on a Paquin double.

“As much as people wouldn’t think I was nervous, I was,” Paquin said. “But when you get run support like they gave me today, I was able to calm myself and just let me team field it behind me.’’

I got plenty of support offensively and defensively today.”

Paquin was glad to have that support going into the fifth and seventh, when Conant tacked on two more before she induced a foul pop out to McNulla for one out, a foul pop out to King at third and finished things off with her fifth strikeout of the game.