WESTBROOK—The Lady Blazes jumped ahead early versus the visiting Tigresses on Thursday afternoon, April 19, but suffered a big setback in the second, giving up a quartet of runs. Westbrook logged a slick inning of their own in the fourth – Ally LaPierre, Kimmy Goddard and Emily Greeley all scored – but they just couldn’t keep pace with Biddeford as the game went on, and ultimately succumbed 8-4.
“I think today the big deal was they just hit better than we did,” said Blazes head coach Eddie St. John. “Their leadoff hitter went three for four, or four for five.”
Westbrooker Anjelica Johns started in the hurler’s circle, top of the first. Johns gave up a first-pitch grounder single to Tiger Olivia Whittaker; she then struck out Lexi Matteau swinging, but soon found herself with the bases loaded, having walked Brooke Davis and allowed another single against Chantel Perreault.
“Their top four hitters,” St. John said, “we had our outfielders playing back a little more. And our big game plan was to keep the Davis girl – we didn’t want her swinging. Our plan was to walk her every single time, and if the bases were loaded, we were still going to walk, because one run is better than four. She’s really dangerous.”
With her teammates’ help, Johns escaped the top of the first. When Biddeford’s Katie Stewart knocked a trickler into the dirt, Johns grabbed it and flipped it to catcher Emily Talbot, who tagged Whittaker out at home, saving a run. Finally, Tiger Taylor Wildes grounded out 6-3.
Johns grounded into left to kick off the bottom of the first, reaching all the way to third on a Biddeford bobble; she then raced home again when Kiana Fuller grounded a single into center. Westbrook took the lead, 1-0.
In the top of the second, however, Biddeford roared back: Maddy Dineen, Whittaker, Matteau and Davis all rounded the diamond for 4-1. The next inning and a half passed scorelessly, but in the top of the fourth, Biddeford grabbed two more – Anna Lavigne and Whittaker both crossed home.
A handful of errors cost the Blazes, over the course of the game, but perhaps even more important was some flukey contact the Tigers managed to make:
“They had those bloop hits,” St. John said. “We kind of didn’t communicate in the infield on one of the bloop hits they had. I thought the infield did all right, and the outfield was fine – we’ve just got to talk a little more. We had one that popped out of glove, but that was a line drive that was pretty tough.” LaPierre, in center for Westbrook, grabbed a Wildes drive on the run in the top of the third, but the ball, lodged barely in the tip of her glove, slipped out.
The Blazes hashed three their next ups, tearing a chunk off their swelling deficit. LaPierre walked to first to begin the push, and reached second on a pass ball during Libby Cole’s at-bat. Goddard then found her way onto base with a little infield chip that just sailed over Biddeford pitcher Matteau’s glove and stuck in the dirt.
Greeley next grounded to short, but the Tigers’ 6-4 fielder’s choice attempt – an attempt to catch Goddard – arrived at second too late, and the Blazes had bases loaded. LaPierre reached home when Matteau walked Alli Petry, and Goddard followed suit when Matteau walked Johns. Greeley capped the Westbrook effort on a Talbot sac fly to right.
Those three runs would prove the last of the Blazes’ afternoon. The Tigers piled on two more – Matteau and Perreault scored in the top of the sixth – and Westbrook threatened again in the bottom of the seventh, Talbot getting all the way to third, but the last out of the Blazes’ last ups closed the action at 8-4.
St. John took a moment to applaud some of his girls. “Anjelica pitched very, very well,” he said. “Camryn LaPierre, our shortstop, she had a [triple] off the fence, and she got another base hit. She hits it very hard. And Emily, our catcher, our other senior; it took a little while to get her going, but the last at-bat she had a double. I thought she played well. And my third baseman, Fuller, that’s her first time she’s been on third base defensively. She was a little nervous, but she played really well today.”
Johns finished 1-3 on the day, her lone hit that first-inning double she extended into a triple. Camryn LaPierre finished 1-3 as well, her shot the deep triple. Fuller went 1-3 and Goddard 1-3 too. Of defensive note: Westbrook ended the third on a well-executed 1-6-3 double-play.
Westbrook begins the year at 0-1. The Blazes’ follow-up battle came on Saturday the 21st, when they travel to Windham.
Biddeford has been a strong program for quite some time; Westbrook, meanwhile, is a program on the rise. The Blazes bested the Tigers last year, but in seasons prior to that, the contest likely would not have looked competitive at all. It says something about Westbrook’s progress for them to look sharp against an always-tough opponent in both sides’ first outing of the spring.
“We’ve come a long way since we’ve started,” St. John said. “The girls are competitive. I think the program’s turning around, slow but surely.”
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME
Westbrooker Emily Talbot jumps off third, ready to make for home.
Anjelica Johns pitched well for the Blazes on Thursday.
Camryn LaPierre reels in a ground ball for the Blazes.
Kimmy Goddard leads off third as a teammate at the plate fouls off a pitch.