H.S. Softball: Hopkinton, Concord advance to championship games

  • Concord outfielder Delany Duford makes a diving catch in right field in the first inning against Merrimack on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord High’€™s Kennedy Ramos celebrates after scoring a run against Merrimack at Memorial Field on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord High outfielder Delany Duford is called out at home plate out trying to score a run on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/10/2021 10:43:22 AM

HOPKINTON – Hopkinton softball coach Dan Meserve said it best when he stated, “When you’re striking out 13 out of 21 outs it makes it a little bit easier.”

That’s exactly what senior pitcher Megan Kimball-Rhines did on Wednesday, striking out 13 Monadnock batters, walking none and allowing just two singles to lead the Hawks to a 6-0 Division III semifinal victory at home. Next up for Hopkinton is Saturday’s Division III championship against Campbell (13-0) where the Hawks will be looking to defend their 2019 title.

“MKR, she’s the best pitcher,” Meserve said. “When she’s got that look in her eye...I’m glad I’m coaching her and not hitting against her. She had it today.”

Hopkinton (12-2) scored three runs in the first and second innings off key hits from junior Maddy Follansbee and freshman Keegan St. Cyr (2-for-3) to take an early lead. Kimball-Rhines and sophomore catcher Maddie Carmichael (1-for-2, triple, walk) both reached base on walks and were driven home on a double by Follansbee, but an errant throw to third base allowed her to come home on the same play for a 3-0 edge.

Almost the exact same play resulted in three more runs in the second inning when St. Cyr singled home junior Julia Baer (1-for-2, three stolen bases) and senior Jordyn Barrett, but an overthrow to second allowed St. Cyr to round the bases to make it 6-0.

After that, it was all Kimball-Rhines. The Huskies (8-6) had back-to-back singles off of bunts in the third inning, but clean fielding by Hopkinton didn’t allow any Monadnock baserunners to make it past first safely all game and Kimball-Rhines tossed 1-2-3 innings the rest of the way.

“My rise ball was working really well and everything just clicked in,” Kimball-Rhines said. “I’ve had some trouble with my change-up in the last couple of games, but it went pretty well today.”

Even when Monadnock did manage to string a couple hits together, she didn’t panic.

“It’s always that inning when it’s getting hot and I’m getting tired and I need to mentally kick it into gear,” Kimball-Rhines said.

Monadnock pitcher Grace LeClair also threw well, striking out seven, walking four and allowing six hits in six innings.

“That’s a good (Monadnock) team over there,” Meserve said. “(LeClair) is very good. We stressed with this pitcher, just try to get a ball in play. She’s good. She threw hard, we had a hard time making a lot of contact, but we got some big hits and took advantage of their mistakes too. I liked the focus we had today, up and down (the lineup).”

Freshman Steph Elrick also had a hit and stole two bases for the Hawks.

“I’m just really proud of this team,” Kimball-Rhines said. “We’re in the same position that we were in two years ago, and it’s really exciting to play with them and have one last ride with them.”

The position Kimball-Rhines is referring to is a spot in the D-III championship against Campbell. In 2019, the Hawks beat the Cougars, 2-0, in the title game thanks to eight strikeouts and two hits allowed from Kimball-Rhines, who also scored the game-winning run and drove in Baer on a triple.

The Cougars defeated Belmont in the other semifinal.

“Campbell, they’re loaded,” Meserve said. “They’re a solid team up and down. They have everything. We’ll need to be on top of our game.”

The championship is slated to start at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Memorial Field in Concord.

D-I Softball

Concord 5, Merrimack 2

Key players: Concord — Alice Rosenberg (win, 5 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 5 K; hit, RBI), Sarah Taylor (triple, 2 RBI, run), Elizabeth Blinn (hit, BB, RBI), Kyleigh Gray (hit), Delaney Duford (RBI), Lillian Rienstra (run), Kennedy Ramos (run), Grace MacDonald (run), Jaelyn Kelleher (run), Maddy Wachter (2 IP, 2 R, 3 H, 3 K) Merrimack — Ally O’Brien (2 H, 2 RBI), Erin Knauer (2 H, R), Avery Hui (loss, 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER)

Highlights: Rosenberg and Hui were locked in a pitchers’ duel through four innings until the Tide erupted for five runs in the bottom of the fifth in this semifinal at Memorial Field. Rienstra reached on an error to start things and moved to second on a groundout. Kennedy Ramos grounded to the shortstop, who faked a throw to first to try to catch Rienstra taking off to third, but the Tide captain stayed put, keeping two runners aboard. Both moved up a base on a passed ball. Duford followed with a grounder to short and Rienstra beat the throw home for the game’s first run. Rosenberg helped her cause with a single up the middle to plate Ramos, and came out for courtesy runner Kelleher. Duford was thrown out at the plate on MacDonald’s grounder to third for the second out. Taylor roped an 0-2 pitch to right for a two-run triple, then scored on Blinn’s single to left. Merrimack got two back in the sixth, but Wachter pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. The win was Coach Duke Sawyer’s 300th at the Tide helm and sends Concord into Saturday’s championship against Salem at 2 p.m. at Rivier University.

Coach's quote: “I couldn’t be happier for these kids. They want this badly and played a very good game against a high quality opponent.” — Concord assistant coach Sandy Smith

Records: Concord 18-2; Merrimack 17-3

D-II Softball

Oyster River 4, Merrimack Valley 2

Key players: ​​​​​​Merrimack Valley — Livie Lacasse (2-for-4, run), Kalee Keyser (1-for-3), Arie Perry (1-for-3, run), Liv Seeley (1-for-3), Abby Allen (1-for-3), Emily Kelly (1-for-3), Emma Steenbeke (stellar defense), Sadie Barton (6 IP, kept MV in the game)

Highlights: This semifinal was back-and-forth as Oyster River scored two runs in the third, MV answered with a run in the top of the fifth and then the Bobcats plated one in the bottom of the frame to take a 3-1 lead. The Pride scored another single run in the top of the sixth to cut the lead to one, but OR responded again with a run of its own in the bottom of the sixth for the final margin. Oyster River will play Milford, which beat John Stark in the other semi, in Saturday’s final.

Coach's quote: “Solid game from the MV young group of players. Sadie Barton (only senior) demonstrated great leadership all season. It did not end as we had wanted, however a final four finish is an accomplishment. Very proud of the team as they represented our program and school with hard play and a will-not-quit attitude!” — MV’s Kevin O’Brien

Records: Oyster River 15-4; Merrimack Valley 10-5

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