By Lorenzo Recupero
Prior to Monday’s regular season showdown with Salem (3-2, loss), the Lady Tide had already locked up a postseason berth. The team’s winning recipe throughout the season featured three key ingredients: a lockdown defense and two aces in the bullpen.
“Defensively they have been strong behind the pitching,” said head coach Stacy Schiavo of her team’s 12-8 regular season. “If opposing teams hit against our pitchers, I know the defense will back them up,” said Schiavo, making it clear offensive struggles are mostly to blame for the team’s losses as total error numbers defensively dipped significantly compared to last season.
“We need to hit [to get a playoff win] and when we have runners on we need to get them in and score some runs” said Schiavo, who is calling on her batters to help support the defense and whomever is on the mound. Sophomore Madison Smith currently leads the team with a .589 batting average and .621 slugging percentage.
Senior captain and catcher Kaylee Nearen, along with junior shortstop Maddy Duraes and junior infielder Victoria Bento have powered the resurgent defense for the Crimson Tide.
“When we are down, we try to pick each other up,” said Duraes of the defensive effort. “We have a good chemistry on and off the field. We like to take on challenges,” she said. Her defensive counterpart, Veronica Bento, relayed a similar sentiment. “We motivate each other in hard situations and we build bonds on and off the field,” she said. “We like good competition and push each other to play our best. Even during tough losses, we’ve learned from our mistakes and come back stronger,” said Bento.
Along with the improved defensive prowess, the competent duo of junior Ariana Garay and freshman pitcher Celeste Fuccillo, a strike zone punisher, have combined for 94 strikeouts and a 3.24 ERA to help keep the team standing all season.
Of the teams 94 strikeouts, Fuccillo, who started playing softball at 9 years young, owns 59 of them.
“Playing on AAU teams has given me the confidence at the varsity level,” said Fuccillo (4-8). “I have a connection with many of the girls on the team because we play on the same summer league team. It was welcoming to come in,” she said.
Leading the way, though, is the experienced Garay, who has evolved into a force since becoming a starting pitcher last season. Labeled a groundball type pitcher, she is undefeated (8-0) heading into the postseason and has allowed a total of just 31 hits all year (3.87 hits per game). Her current 1.57 ERA is the best of her career.
“Playing a role at first base has opened my eyes to a different aspect of the game,” said Garay, who has split time at first base when Fuccillo is on the mound. “Understanding the role defensively has made me more confident overall as a player, “she said.
The Lady Tide will start their playoff journey to capture the D.1 north title on Thursday (6/6) versus Woburn (13-7) at Woburn High School at 3:30PM.