Extra work has paid off for Sandwich softball pitcher Julia Sullivan

Julia Sullivan had never played travel softball until last summer. The senior lefthanded pitcher grew up playing town softball in Sandwich and decided to join the Bay State Thunder to take her game to the next level. In addition to a challenging summer schedule, Sullivan also worked out with her teammates during the offseason to push herself.

Her offseason efforts have certainly paid off this year, as Sullivan has guided No. 4 Sandwich to a perfect 13-0 start while throwing four no-hitters and seven shutouts. Her latest no-no came against Atlantic Coast League rival Dennis-Yarmouth last Monday, when Blue Knights routed the Dolphins, 14-0.

“Julia’s such a hard worker,” said 17-year coach Jean Russell. “She’s very rarely satisfied with her performance. She’s perfectionist.”

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Sullivan’s strategy has changed a little.

“This year I’m focused on movement pitches,” she said. “I’ve been using them more to my advantage.”

Sullivan also said that having senior catcher Ashley Smith has helped immensely. Smith, a three-year starter, has played with Sullivan since Little League.

“I know she has my back,” Sullivan said of Smith. “She knows how I pitch. It’s comforting to know I have her behind the plate.”

Sullivan has pitched 64 innings and has struck out 115, walked 16 and currently sports an impressive 0.10 ERA. She will continue a family tradition and attend Westfield State University in the fall as a nursing major and also play softball. Her parents Robert and Christine Sullivan met while attending Westfield, and her brother Mike is a junior business major who's also on the baseball team.

Team chemistry and great communication is the reason the Blue Knights are having another great season, according to junior shortstop Julianna Ferguson. Sandwich only graduated one senior from last year’s squad, and the majority of the players have known each other since Little League.

Like Sullivan, Ferguson also played showcase softball last summer, for the Rhode Island Thunder.

“Playing on a team during the summer is good because we can come back and share ways to improve,” said Ferguson.

Sandwich clinched the ACL title for the second year in a row Friday with a 2-1 win over Falmouth. Sullivan hit a walkoff RBI double to secure the win and the crown.

“To win it in the bottom of the seventh felt pretty good,” said Russell. “It was the right way to go out. This year is our year to stay on top. It was one of our goals to win the ACL and now we can cross that off the list.”

Ferguson said the team hopes to go deeper in the tournament this year than they did last season and has embraced the team’s motto, “Together All In.”

“We are all one,’’ said Ferguson. “”We all have the determination to work hard together. If we do that, good things will come.”

Game of the Week

Nobles at Governor’s, Wednesday 5:15 p.m. — Undefeated seasons and the ISL crown will be on the line. The matchup will feature Governors hurler Sarah Dupere (6-0, 0.94 ERA) against Nobles’ Amanda Gonzalez (6-0, 2.12).