Milford captures title
Smith strikes out 22 for Scarlet Hawks
WORCESTER - In a classic pitchers’ duel, the Milford softball team scratched out a single run in nine innings for a thrilling 1-0 win over Malden to capture their first Division 1 state championship.
“Tonight we found a way to get one run and that’s what we needed to get it done,’’ said Milford coach Brian Macchi.
The game was a showdown between two aces, Milford’s Shannon Smith and Malden’s Kiara Amos. Matching each other pitch for pitch, they combined for 32 strikeouts, no walks and just eight hits.
Smith, a junior who has committed to Kentucky, struck out 22 and allowed only one hit to Amos in the second inning. Malden only had two base runners, and neither of them was able to reach beyond first base.
“She made some unbelievable pitches, she never made any mistakes and we didn’t get the bat on the ball,’’ said Malden coach John Furlong.
Milford threatened multiple times but each time the Providence-bound Amos was up to the task.
The Scarlet Hawks loaded the bases in the fourth with nobody out on hits by Samantha Bonvino, Smith and Caroline Fairbanks. But Amos got a strikeout for the first out. Then on a botched squeeze play she applied the tag at home on a rundown for the second out and got another of her 10 strikeouts to get out of the inning.
“Sometimes you get a little bit nervous but she’s in total control of the game,’’ said Furlong.
The Golden Tornadoes couldn’t turn any of that momentum into offense though, as Smith struck out 10 straight through the late innings and didn’t allow a base runner after the fourth.
“During the playoff run this is the best I’ve seen her throw,’’ said Macchi. “She wanted this and stepped it up big time.’’
Milford put runners in scoring position in the fifth and seventh but Amos left them stranded. In the ninth inning the Scarlet Hawks manufactured the lone run.
Fairbanks led off with her third hit and moved to second on Taylor Archer’s bunt. Amos got a flyout for the second out, setting the stage for Taylor Lebrun. The freshman catcher singled to center and Fairbanks raced home, sliding in just ahead of the the throw.
“She’s playing beyond her years and has come up with some big hits for us this season,’’ said Macchi.
The win caps a perfect 25-0 season for Milford, the only undefeated team in Massachusetts, in their final season as a Central Mass. school. Next year they return Smith, the Gatorade Player of the Year, and will compete in Division 1 South and the Hockomock League.