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Division II Softball

Making history

  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

The conversation began on the first day of practice in March.

ConVal softball coach Jim Coppo knew he had a special group. One that was capable of special things. And he was not hesitant about telling anyone who would listen. He claimed that the Division II state softball title would go through Peterborough and he was right.

With a 5-3 victory over No. 1 Coe-Brown on Saturday night under the lights at Southern New Hampshire University, where the second-seeded Cougars (17-3) had to fight off another seventh inning rally from their opponent, the 2013 team etched its place in the ConVal history books as the first state champion in program history.

“Definitely one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” said senior Lauren Mackey. “It will be something that will be with me for the rest of my life.”

“These kids are state champions for the rest of their lives and that’s the only thing I care about,” said Coppo.

No ConVal softball team had ever appeared in a state title game before Saturday, but this was not a group that was going to get caught up in the magnitude of the game. Coe-Brown was just another opponent. The final team standing in the way of their ultimate goal.

“When we got on the field for pregame, you saw the faces turn. You saw everybody become real softball players and nothing was going to let us down,” said senior Marena Brock. “We had been here before. We knew what it felt like and it wasn’t different than any other game.”

After falling short in the semifinals last year, the mission for 2013 was clear. Just one outcome that would make it a success. And there were five seniors, who graduated earlier in the day, that were prepared to do just about anything to make it happen.

“I’m so proud of everybody on this team and I had no doubt about winning,” said senior Ana Hautanen. “From the start of the season we had serious potential and we all stepped up.”

For Mackey there was no question if she’d play. Despite severely rolling her ankle in the sixth inning of the semifinal win over Hollis/Brookline, Mackey was not going to let it keep her from playing in the biggest and last game of her high school career. So that meant two days on crutches, ice baths and intense rehab.

And did Mackey ever make an impact, going 3-for-4 from the cleanup spot in the order with a double, one run scored and three runs batted in. Her final two RBIs on a bloop single in the second turned out to be the difference in the game.

“In my mind, I was definitely set to play, no matter what,” said Mackey. “I have looked forward to this since freshman year.”

But Mackey’s is just one of many stories of resiliency for this group. It is what took ConVal so far this season. This team would not except failure.

Senior left fielder Katie Walker stayed in the game after taking a ball to the face on a fly ball in the seventh and recorded the first out after Coe-Brown’s Amanda Riley drove in the Bears’ first two runs of the game.

“It’s overwhelming. It’s probably the most exciting thing ever. I think it’s even better than graduating,” said Walker.

Then there was junior ace Courtney Fisher. For the second straight game, the tying run was either on base or at the plate, but it didn’t phase her one bit. Fisher had been in these situations all year.

And after a two-out RBI double that cut the ConVal lead to two, Jessica Ohrenberger stepped to the plate representing the tying run. After a lengthy battle with two strikes, Fisher recorded her 10th strikeout of the game to earn the first banner for ConVal’s new gymnasium.

“It’s just awesome. I don’t even know what to say,” said Fisher.

Just like in the semifinals, ConVal scored early to put the pressure on. With three runs in the first, scoring on hits from Mackey, Fisher and junior second baseman Bryanna Lindsay, who went 3-for-4, it would be up to the Coe-Brown offense to make a game of it.

And if not for some clutch pitching from Fisher, the Bears looked ready to make a quick comeback. They loaded the bases in the first on a single, bunt base hit and an error with no outs. But Fisher’s back-to-back strikeouts and a line out to Mackey ended the threat.

Mackey’s two-out single made it 5-0 in the second. Coe-Brown went quietly in the second, third and fourth, but once again loaded the bases in the fifth. This time, Fisher induced a line out to senior Maxine Dunn in right field.

“We’ve been told since the very first day in the gym that this was a team that could win a state championship and all of us believed it and today we made it happen,” said Dunn.

While it got a little too close for comfort in the seventh, ConVal was prepared for the situation. Not only had the Cougars played in eight games during the regular season decided by two runs or fewer, posting a 7-1 record, but all three previous tournament contests were also just as close.

ConVal won a pair of 2-0 decisions over Souhegan and Trinity at home in the first two rounds and then survived a late scare from Hollis/Brookline to win 6-5 in the semifinals.

“My job is to make sure these kids are in a position to win and I did everything I could to make sure they were,” said Coppo. “There’s not a coach in the world that’s prouder than me.”

ConVal led Division II for much of the season, but back-to-back losses to end the regular season dropped them to No. 2. But that didn’t matter. As the only team returning to the Final Four, the Cougars were not just happy to be there. They had a specific goal to achieve and they weren’t about to let anybody stand in the way. But it was not just for them. This group desperately wanted to give Coppo his first state title in 16 years on the job.

“I’ve grown really close to coach and something I wanted to do with my senior year was to give him something that no ConVal team has,” said Hautanen.

And after talking all year about how special this team was, Coppo could not think of a better group to go down as the first softball state champion in ConVal history and the one that finally put him on top.

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