TAUNTON — Methuen has had to face the cream of the crop during this postseason run. Still, the Rangers are one of two team’s left standing in Division 1.
After defeating the top two seeds to win the North title, Methuen carried its momentum over to the state semifinal round, using a five-run third inning to knock off South champion Bridgewater-Raynham, 6-2, Wednesday night at Jack Tripp Field to earn a spot in the program’s first-ever state title game.
“It kind of speaks to the way we have been doing it all year,” Rangers coach Jason Smith said. “I know it’s cliche but there is no quit and no let-up in this team. They know if one person doesn’t do it there is someone right behind them ready to step up. We were able to get some timely hits tonight.”
An RBI single from Summer Sheerin put the Trojans (23-2) up in the first inning and starting pitcher Julia Ferry rejoiced, putting the Rangers down in order in the second to extend a streak of five straight hitters retired.
But after recording two quick outs in the third, control of the game shifted dramatically to the Rangers side as four straight singles, including a two-run blooper from Dana Littlefield, gave Methuen (21-4) a 3-1 lead. One batter later, senior captain Cori Rizzo connected with a two-run round tripper to left to make the advantage four runs.
“We knew we were going to win,” Rizzo said of the momentum-swinging inning. “I’ve played with these girls my whole life and we knew just with that inning we had it. … We were pouring with confidence, it was crazy.”
Methuen upped the ante to 6-1 in the fourth inning as Jillian McCoy reached on an error before scoring later in the inning on a single from Stephanie Tardugno (3-for-4). The Trojans put pressure on the defense in the home half of the inning but were unable to crack the Rangers’ Jillian McCoy who left six runners in scoring position throughout the game and finished her complete game with just seven hits allowed and eight strikeouts.
“We definitely would’ve liked it to be a few less runners in scoring position, but she beared down when it got tough. She’s a bulldog out there. She wants the ball in every situation and she’s ready in every situation,” Smith said of his right-hander.
Methuen’s run-in with top-notch competition continues in the Div. 1 state final Saturday as it will need to take down Wachusett — the state’s lone undefeated team — to capture the program’s first softball state title.
“It says a lot about these girls. They are the ones representing Methuen, representing the town,” Smith said, noting the Rangers are following the success of the Methuen/Tewksbury co-op program’s girls hockey state championship. “We hope we can replicate some of that hockey magic from earlier in the year.”
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