Summer started earlier than usual for the Tewksbury High softball team as fourth-seeded Danvers High School broke open a 3-3 tie with a six-run rally in the sixth inning and went on to take a 9-3 win, eliminating Tewksbury from the MIAA Division 2 North Sectional tournament in the first round Thursday afternoon in Danvers.
TMHS pitcher Tiffanie Marsh, who earlier this week was named the Division 1 Player of The Year in the Merrimack Valley Conference, turned in a solid effort on the mound for the Redmen, holding the powerful Danvers offense to just three runs through five innings. But the wheels came off in the sixth as Tewksbury committed three errors in the inning, leading to six Danvers runs.
"That wasn't like us at all," said Tewksbury coach Leo "Doc" DiRocco. "We're a good defensive team. I don't think we committed three errors in the first 10 games of the season this year. But we've made a few lately and (against Danvers) they hurt us."
The Redmen jumped out to a 3-0 first inning lead, as their aggressive base running forced Danvers into some throwing errors that sparked the TMHS rally. Sophomore shortstop Brooke Hardy, who had two hits in the game, led off with a single and later scored on a Danvers throwing error. Senior center fielder Sheri Liggiero also singled and scored in the first, while Marsh reached on an error and scored on left fielder Sam Laferriere's RBI single.
Danvers rallied back to tie the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the third when the Falcons strung together four hits, a TMHS error and a sacrifice bunt and produced three runs.
Meanwhile, Danvers pitcher Kendall Meehan was keeping the Tewksbury hitters off balance with constant changes of speed and location. Meehan held TMHS to just four hits in the game.
"When we're patient at the plate we're a good hitting team," DiRocco said. "But we weren't being patient. When a pitch is up around the letters, that's a ball. And if you're gonna swing at that you're gonna hit a lot of fly balls, which is what we did. We have nobody to blame but ourselves."
Still, with all the adversity his team faced this year, DiRocco was satisfied with the team's performance this spring. In spite of losing starting pitcher Shannon McLaughlin to a broken hand midway through the season, the Redmen still compiled a 13-7 regular season record and qualified for the state tournament for the 10th straight year.
"We could have gone down the toilet after losing our No. 1 pitcher, but a lot of kids stepped up and played well against a lot of good teams," DiRocco said. "Tiffanie (Marsh) did a great job, moving from shortstop to pitcher, which isn't easy."
Marsh compiled a 6-5 record on the mound and hit .430 in the season, earning the league MVP award in the process. She got a lot of support from the team's three graduating seniors; third baseman Katie Doherty, catcher Lauren Texeira and center fielder Sheri Liggiero.
Sophomore Brooke Hardy, who has already verbally committed to play softball at Jacksonville University in 2014, also had an outstanding year, hitting over .400 and moving from second base to shortstop when Marsh moved to the mound.
Hardy, Liggiero and Marsh earned MVC all-conference honors while Doherty, Texeira, Laferierre and first baseman Missy Cordwell were named to the MVC all-star team.
"Overall, it was a good season. I have no complaints," said DiRocco, who celebrated his 300th career coaching victory during the season. "And we have six starters coming back, so next year looks real good too."
Division 2 North Baseball
Tewksbury 3, Wayland 0
The Wayland High baseball team had not faced Tewksbury lefty John Chotkowski during the regular season and it would probably be fine with them if they never see him again.
The Redmen ace turned in yet another brilliant performance on Thursday, scattering three hits and leading Tewksbury to a 3-0 win in a Division 2 North Sectional Tournament game at Strong Field.
Chotkowski pitched a complete game, walking just two and striking out six to run his record to 7-2 on the season.
Tewksbury, seeded No. 16 in the 17-team tournament, jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning and tacked on an insurance run in the fifth. Eric Hunter had a hit and drove in a pair of runs for the Redmen. Cam Oliveira had the other RBI. Mike Casey, Mark Daley, Frankie McLaughlin, Alex Hamilton and Brad Gahagan had the other hits for Tewksbury.
With the win, the Redmen will now go on the road to take on top-seeded North Andover on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Division 2 North Girls Lacrosse
Ipswich 18, Tewksbury 2
Tewksbury High, seeded No. 15 in the 16-team tournament, ran into a buzz-saw on Thursday, falling to No. 2 Ipswich, 18-2 in the preliminary round of the Division 2 North Sectional Tournament.
Taylor Lirakis scored both goals for the Redmen. Melissa Peters assisted on both goals but the Tewksbury sniper was effectively shut down by an athletic Ipswich squad. Goalie Riley Ryan actually had a strong game for the Redmen with 15 saves.
Tewksbury finishes its season at 5-12.
Division 2 East Boys Lacrosse
Wellesley 16, Tewksbury 2
Too fast, too strong, too good.
Wellesley was too much of everything for Tewksbury in a 16-2 win in the preliminary round of the Division 2 East Sectional Tournament.
Brandon Hibner and Johnny Aylward had the goals for the Redmen, who closed their season at 11-10.
Division 2 North Girls Tennis
The Tewksbury High tennis team, enjoying the best season in its history, will look to keep it going as it begins play in the Division 2 North Sectional Tournament.
The Redmen (12-7), seeded No.12, will be on the road Sunday, June 3, to take on No. 5 Pentucket (13-3) in the preliminary round. If Tewksbury can pull off the upset, it will advance to the quarterfinals against either No. 13 Reading (10-6) or No. 4 Burlington (16-3) on Monday, June 4.