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Top-ranked Concord reaches softball championship, 4-2 over Salem

  • Salem High School's Samantha Cloutier, right, steals second base past Concord High School's Amy Morin, left, during a game in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Concord defeated Salem by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Salem High School's Samantha Cloutier, right, steals second base past Concord High School's Amy Morin, left, during a game in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Concord defeated Salem by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • From left: Concord High School's Amy Morin, #10, Jessica Carroll, #21, and Cassidy Emerson, #7, celebrate after Concord defeated Salem High School by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    From left: Concord High School's Amy Morin, #10, Jessica Carroll, #21, and Cassidy Emerson, #7, celebrate after Concord defeated Salem High School by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Concord High School's Katelyn Kennard throws a pitch during a game against Salem High School in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Concord defeated Salem by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School's Katelyn Kennard throws a pitch during a game against Salem High School in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Concord defeated Salem by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Concord High School players share a moment in the dugout before the game against Salem High School in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Concord defeated Salem by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School players share a moment in the dugout before the game against Salem High School in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Concord defeated Salem by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Concord High School's Katelyn Kennard hits a line drive toward Salem High School's Hannah Latham, #17, during a game in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Concord defeated Salem by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School's Katelyn Kennard hits a line drive toward Salem High School's Hannah Latham, #17, during a game in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Concord defeated Salem by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Salem High School's Samantha Cloutier, right, steals second base past Concord High School's Amy Morin, left, during a game in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Concord defeated Salem by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • From left: Concord High School's Amy Morin, #10, Jessica Carroll, #21, and Cassidy Emerson, #7, celebrate after Concord defeated Salem High School by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School's Katelyn Kennard throws a pitch during a game against Salem High School in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Concord defeated Salem by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School players share a moment in the dugout before the game against Salem High School in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Concord defeated Salem by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School's Katelyn Kennard hits a line drive toward Salem High School's Hannah Latham, #17, during a game in Hooksett on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Concord defeated Salem by a score of 4-2 in the Division I girls' softball semifinal.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

MANCHESTER – The Concord High softball team has taken that annoying AT&T commercial to heart.

“We want more, we want more!”

More runs, more practices, and one more game.

Knowing that a 2-0 lead may not be enough, top-ranked Concord (19-2) tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning last night then held off a Salem (16-5) comeback to beat the No. 4 Blue Devils, 4-2, in the Division I semifinals. The victory puts the Crimson Tide into the title game for the third time in the last five years, this time on Saturday against No. 2 Timberlane, a 4-1 winner over No. 3 Dover in last night’s other semifinal.

“It feels great to be here with this group of kids. They really want it,” Concord Coach Duke Sawyer said. “This is a really fun group. They work hard, they’re very talented, they know they have a job to do and they do it.”

That job last night started with playing sound defense and putting the pressure on Salem early.

A 1-2-3 top of the first by Katie Kennard – who retired the game’s first 11 batters – set the tone defensively, then Kennard sparked the offense in the home half of the inning. With two outs, she hit a tough-hop grounder that ate up the Salem shortstop, allowing Kennard to reach on the error. With Katherine Muzzey in to run, Jess Carroll stepped to the plate and hammered the first offering from Salem’s Kaitlyn Arsenault into the gap in right-center for a double, easily scoring Muzzey for a 1-0 lead.

“I was just thinking get a hit. Anything hittable, I just wanted to get (Muzzey) in on that,” said Carroll, who went 3-for-3 with two RBI, including the eventual game-winner. “It’s huge (to get the early lead). You step on the field feeling a little better, but we also know there’s still a long way to go.”

Salem’s Sam Cloutier ended Kennard’s no-hit bid with an infield single in the fourth and promptly stole second, but she was left stranded when Molly Emerson tracked down Brittany Wallace’s drive to deep left-center.

Then Concord responded in its next at-bat.

Carroll beat out a swinging bunt to start the inning, pinch runner Isabel Stoddard took second on a wild pitch, then Dani Morrill blasted a double off the left field fence for a 2-0 lead. Cassidy Emerson lined a single then stole second to put two runners in scoring position, but Arsenault escaped the jam without any further damage.

The Tide, however, wanted more, and got it in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, Kennard singled and a wild pitch sent Muzzey (again running for Kennard) to second. Carroll then delivered an RBI single just out of the reach of diving second baseman Brianna Rastello for a 3-0 lead. And Amy Morin doubled to deep center to score Carroll with an insurance run.

“Jess just put the bat on the ball. She had a monster game,” Sawyer said. “Second team All-State, maybe she was showing them she should have been first team.”

Kennard, who’d allowed just the one baserunner through the first five innings, gave up back-to-back hits to Rastello and Rachel Murphy to start the sixth, prompting a call to the bullpen.

“Katie was lights out, but in the sixth she started to run out of gas,” Sawyer said. “A little speed bump, but how many times have we hit a little speed bump this year, and each time we bring Danielle-son (Morrill) in and she gets the job done.”

A wild pitch brought Rastello home with the first run, but Morrill retired the next three batters on a popup to short, a groundout to second (that scored Murphy) and a foul pop to third.

Salem had a leadoff single in the seventh and another batter reached on an error with one out, but Morrill coaxed a flyball to left and a comebacker to end the game and give the Tide one more game.

“I’ve wanted to get back (to the championships), that’s all I’ve been thinking about all year,” said Carroll, one of six players who were on the 2011 runner-up squad. “And this year we need to have a different ending.”

(Sandy Smith can be reached at 369-3339 or ssmith@cmonitor.com.)

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