×

Softball: Balam strikes out 500th batter, but Warriors lose to Farmington again

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team hosted Farmington on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team hosted Farmington on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team hosted Farmington on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team hosted Farmington on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team hosted Farmington on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team hosted Farmington on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team hosted Farmington on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team hosted Farmington on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team hosted Farmington on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team hosted Farmington on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team hosted Farmington on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, May 16, 2019 1:10PM

Wilton-Lyndeborough’s Lexi Balam only needed one strikeout to hit 500 for her career on Wednesday afternoon, and it only took one batter for her to get it done. Farmington’s slugging shortstop Jilli Stevens took Balam to a full count to lead off the game before the Warriors’ sixth-year senior sat her down with a called third strike. 

“It’s pretty exciting,” Balam said after the game. “It’s the result of years and years of putting in the work. It’s definitely paid off.”

Balam’s been on the WLC varsity squad since she was in seventh grade, and she’s played as many games as anyone has under legendary head coach Denny Claire.

“She’s the most dedicated player I’ve ever had,” Claire said. “This is her game, softball’s her game. She loves it.”

Balam pitched a gem on Wednesday, striking out 15 and allowing four hits, one walk and one earned run; the second time through the order, Stevens hit a bomb to left center, the solo home run the only blemish on Balam’s stat line that day.

“Home run aside – that was a nice hit – I felt like I was locating my spots pretty well,” Balam said.

The Warriors, already without Brooke Lane, missed Janel Bachand on Wednesday, as the senior catcher injured her ankle in gym class and could not play. Fortunately, WLC has a backup catcher – hard to come by at the small schools – and the 8th-grader was up to the task.

 “Abby Dowling did very well behind the plate,” Balam said. “She really stepped up when we needed it.”

But the domino effect of injury and illness tumbled the Warriors’ chances at revenge over Farmington – the only team to beat WLC this season – and squander Claire’s bid for his 500th career win.

“Everybody that we had to put in different positions, they did a good job,” Claire said. 

For the most part, that was true, but in a couple key moments, the inexperience showed.

WLC took the lead after Stevens’ third-inning home run, as Balam tripled and scored on a Sam Yurcak single before Rachel Christino drove in Yurcak on a bloop hit to right. That stood for two innings, before a disastrous fifth.  Balam allowed a single and a walk, and the Tigers loaded the bases on a WLC error. With one out, a popup on the infield bounced, ricocheted off stand-in third baseman Sophia Sistachs’ foot and rolled back into foul territory, scoring a run, tying the game and keeping the bases loaded. Balam induced a grounder to first for the second out and nearly got out of the inning before a misplayed grounder was thrown out of play, scoring three Farmington runs.

“Obviously there were some things that happened, it’s too bad that they did,” Balam said. “Mistakes happen, it’s part of the game. I really am proud of how we battled back and we never gave up.”

In the sixth, the lefty Balam pounced on an outside pitch and sent it to left field for a double and scored on a Christino single to cut the lead to 5-3. And in the seventh, Balam led off with another triple and scored on a Yurcak double. The tying run was on second with no outs, and the Warriors were poised to strike. Farmington induced a Christino popout and then walked Emma Skelly, who’d been pounding balls down the line foul in her previous at-bat and looked ready to do some damage. Sistachs came up and hit a grounder that was fielded by the second baseman; she threw to first for the out, Yurcak rounded third and headed home, but the ball beat her there, and she put on the brakes, turned tail and headed back to third. Caught in a rundown, she’d make a valiant attempt, but was chased down, and the game was over. 

“The kids battled, they’re a good bunch of kids, they tried hard,” Claire said. “It’s frustrating because I think we’re a better team than they are.”

The Warriors are now 12-2 heading into Friday’s home game against Hinsdale (7-5), where the Warriors will look to maintain their hold on second place in Division IV and make another bid at Claire’s 500th career win.