Conant softball season ends with 17-1 loss in first round of playoffs

By BEN CONANT

For the Ledger-Transcript

Published: 06-05-2023 3:13 PM

Another promising Conant softball season ended in first-round heartbreak Wednesday afternoon, as visiting 13-seed Monadnock upset No. 4 Conant in a 17-1 run-rule blowout. 

"Not the outcome we wanted," said head coach Wiley Billings after the game. "We had a little bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde [this season], and I think Hyde showed up today."

The Orioles (11-6) had already beaten the Huskies (8-10) twice in the regular season, including a 13-1 laugher in Jaffrey just two weeks earlier. But that loss was Monadnock's last before a five-game win streak put them into the postseason, and when the Huskies got their third shot at second-team All-State hurler Graecen Kirby, they jumped all over her. 

"They had a great game plan," Billings said. "Everybody knows we love to feed the outside part of the plate, so they crowded the plate, and even when we went inside, they were hitting it. They hit the [expletive] out of the ball, you have to give them credit. We did not play well, we did not play clean."

Indeed, Conant made six errors in the game, including five straight in a disastrous third inning in which Monadnock scored 11 times on six hits to put the game far out of reach. Kirby was chased mid-inning in favor of ShaylaSeppala, who settled things down, but the damage was done. 

Conant pulled out their rally caps and found a late spark, as Seppala reached and scored in the fifth to break up the shutout bid for Monadnock's Arianna Drouin, who went the distance with five strikeouts and no walks. Rylee Herr, Francesca Ketola (2-3), Lola Hayes, Hannah Manley (a double) and Kirby had hits for Conant. The game was the last in a Conant uniform for their lone senior and first-team All-State representative Herr, who'll continue her playing career in college at Rivier next year. 

"I've had her since the sixth grade, what's not to say?" Billings said. "She's an unbelievable player."

The Orioles haven't made it out of the first round in five straight seasons since their semifinal appearance in 2017. After Billings took over as head coach in 2018, Conant lost on the road at Belmont in back-to-back years, fell in a rivalry game at Mascenic in 2021 and were the victims of upset the past two seasons, against Berlin and now Monadnock.

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Now Billings is retiring from coaching, moving on without the bang with which he'd hoped to go out. 

"For my last game here, I am a little disappointed, but I'm not disappointed in the team,” Billings said. “This is a young team. We replaced seven starters from last year and we went 11-5 and finished in the fourth spot. They did a lot of good things. I don't know who they're going to have as a coach next year, but they'll get a good team, that's for sure."

ConVal beats Bow, loses to Kingswood

After losing the four-way tie for sixth place the Cougars traveled to Bow Wednesday as the No. 9 seed, winning 4-3.

ConVal lost to Bow in 14 innings June 22. The Cougars scored three runs in the first and a run in the second. In the first inning, Samantha Henderson and Morgan Bemont both reached on ground balls, and Avery Moore hit a single to plate Henderson.

Lily Mandel then hit a line drive single to plate Bemont and Moore.

In the second, Henderson was hit by a pitch on a full count, got to second on a passed ball, and Bemont hit a single to plate Henderson. The offense stayed quiet for the remainder of the game, as the Cougars got runners on but were unable to score. 

Mandel allowed three runs on five hits and struck out three, which put her at 100 strikeouts for the season. She did not walk a batter. 

ConVal traveled to top-seeded Kingswood Saturday, losing 5-4.

The Cougars left the bases loaded in the first inning after a single from Bemont, a bunt single from Avery Moore, and a walk from Mandel. In the bottom of the inning, Kingswood scored four runs on a hit, walk and two errors, and added another in the third.

The Cougars had baserunners in the second, third and fourth innings, but did not score until the fifth. With two outs in the fifth, Moore hit a single, Mandel hit a single and Ashley Cronin hit a single that plated both Moore and Makayla Durgin, who was courtesy-running for Mandel. Kendall Sullivan reached on an error and Cronin scored as the ball went out of play. Opale Barrick then stepped to the plate and with an 0-2 count, blasted a triple to the right side plating Sullivan. In the sixth, Bemont hit a double to right center field and later stole third, but was unable to score.

Mandel went six innings, allowing five runs, one of which were earned, on three hits and three walks, striking out three. In addition to her work behind the plate, Moore went 2-4 with a run and an RBI. Bemont was 2-4 with a single and double, and Mandel was 1-2 with a pair of walks and a single. Cronin went 1-4 with a single, run and two RBI, and Barrick was 1-2 with a walk, triple and RBI. Sullivan also reached, scored a run and had an RBI. 

The Cougars finished the season 11-7.

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