Coventry ends Toll Gate's deep playoff run
In an ideal world, the Toll Gate softball team wouldn’t have needed a late rally in Monday’s Division I losers’ bracket final against Coventry. But once they did, they drew up a pretty good plan to complete their comeback.
Unfortunately for the Titans, Coventry managed to hold it off.
Trailing by two runs in the top of the seventh inning, the Titans had two runners on base with two outs for senior standout Pattie Turner. But facing her toughest task of the night, Coventry pitcher Kerrie DeLiberis buckled down and struck out Turner to end the game. Coventry prevailed 4-2 as the Titans saw their season – and their impressive playoff run – come to an end.
“Nobody I’d rather have up,” said Toll Gate head coach Shana O’Connor. “There’s no better situation. She played her heart out, all the girls played their hearts out. Sometimes it just doesn’t go the way you want it to.”
The Titans found themselves in Monday’s do-or-die game after falling to undefeated Lincoln in the winners’ bracket final on Saturday. Fourth-seeded Coventry, who beat Toll Gate twice in the regular season, lost to Lincoln in the semifinals but stayed alive with two wins in the losers’ bracket.
On Monday, the Oakers stayed hot, scoring two runs in the first and one in the fourth to go up 3-0. But Toll Gate came back strong, with Turner starting a rally on a two-out single in the sixth. Jessica Brosnahan followed with an RBI double before Molly Turner hit an RBI single to make it 3-2. Deliberis got out of a second-and-third jam at that point, but the Titans suddenly had life.
After Coventry tacked on a run in the bottom of the sixth, Toll Gate fought to stay alive in its last at-bat. Jenna Beauchamp hit a hard ground ball to the left of shortstop, and Tatiana Webb couldn’t come up with it. Ingrid Freeman then drew a four-pitch walk to put two on with nobody out.
Deliberis kept those runners where they were, though, by getting Kaylyn Dion to fly out to center. No. 2 hitter Katie McCaughey then popped up a bunt, which first baseman Amanda Ritarossi caught in foul territory.
That set up the showdown with Turner, one of the state’s top hitters. Coventry coach Chris Daigneault gathered his team in the circle before the at-bat.
“I went out there and said, ‘We’re not walking her because that’s the go-ahead run,” Daigneault said. “‘You’ve got to dabble around and maybe make her swing and try to get her. You never know.’”
Turner got ahead 2-1 but Deliberis got her to foul off the next pitch to even the count. A ball brought the count full, but Deliberis fired a high fastball on the next pitch and Turner swung and missed.
Coventry could celebrate, and Deliberis was at the center of it. The strikeout was one of 10, a season-high for the junior.
“Without a doubt the best performance she had all year long,” Daigneault said. “She was super. Most kids get out there and know they’re in the moment. I don’t think she thinks about that. She just goes out there and does her thing.”
The Titans were left wondering what might have been. They stranded six runners on base, two each in the final two innings.
“It seems to take us a little bit of time to adjust to the pitchers,” O’Connor said. “It usually takes us one time through the batting order. A couple of runs for us is usually not a big deal. The girls didn’t give up. They went right through the seventh inning without giving up. We just didn’t get that big hit.”
The loss marked the end of a special run for the Titans, who left an up-and-down regular season in the rearview mirror and surged in the playoffs. They won three straight games before the loss to Lincoln and ended up as one of the final three teams standing.
That run was a fitting way for Toll Gate’s talented senior class to go out, even if it ended in disappointment.
“This group of seniors is going to be missed tremendously,” O’Connor said. “Katie, Kaylyn and Pattie have been playing on the varsity since freshman year. The underclassmen need to step up because they really do have big shoes to fill.”