Overachieving WLC falls in walkoff

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team lost to Derryfield on a walkoff in the NHIAA Division IV semifinals at Plymouth State on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • WLC pitcher Lexi Balam walks off the field after Derryfield got the game-winning hit on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • WLC’s Emma Skelly fields a ball in the outfield against Derryfield in the DIV semifinals on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team lost to Derryfield on a walkoff in the NHIAA Division IV semifinals at Plymouth State on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, June 13, 2017 9:22AM

By all accounts, the Warriors had no business making it to the Final Four. With a host of middle-schoolers and no seniors, 11th-seeded Wilton-Lyndeborough defied all odds just to get to Plymouth. And, for a few moments on Wednesday, it looked like they might make a return trip for the title game.

“At the beginning of the year, we think, we’ll be lucky if we win five games,” said head coach Denny Claire, “and we ended up doing pretty damn well. I’m proud of them, they put a nice effort in.”

The Warriors started out strong against No. 7 Derryfield in the semifinal game. Sophomore pitcher Lexi Balam reached on an error to open the game and scored on a single by Abby LeBlanc, and WLC had a 1-0 lead. But after a pair of singles, a walk and a couple errors, Derryfield was back on top 2-1.

“We made mistakes,” Claire said,” but we're a real young team, we're going to make mistakes nearly every game.”

By the end of the second inning, Derryfield had a commanding 5-1 lead and looked poised to advance to the title game.

“It didn’t look too good for us there,” Claire said. “We had a couple big mistakes out there and it cost us. But they battled back. They don’t quit.”

In the third, Balam singled and Janel Bachand reached on an error, setting up Emma Skelly for an RBI double and closing the gap. And in the fourth, it was Kaitlyn LoVerme who’d reach on an error. Balam tripled her in and scored, and it was 5-5 Derryfield.

The Cougars plated one in the fourth to regain the lead, but WLC wasn’t going down quietly. Balam led off the sixth with a single, and Brooke Lane hit another right behind her. The ball was overthrown and Claire waved Balam through third and sent her home with the potential tying run. Balam avoided the umpire, who for the second time in the game, was positioned dangerously in the basepath, and headed for the plate. The throw was in, the slide was down, and the call was — out.

“I thought she was in, but I’m not the ump,” Claire said. “I thought she made it.”

He said given the chance to do it again, he’d still have sent the tying home from third with no outs.

“You’ve got to gamble with this team,” Claire said. “They’re young, they’re just learning, but they’re scrappy, and they try, and that’s all you can ask.”

Luckily for WLC, Lane would score shortly thereafter on a Skelly single to tie the game.

“That kind of took me off the hook a little maybe, I guess,” Claire said.

The game went into the bottom of the seventh, where Derryfield got a leadoff triple and then a single to complete the 7-6 walkoff win.

“It’s a hard one to lose because you’re that close to maybe getting there,” Claire said, “but that’s why you play the game. They got the winning hit and we didn’t.”

Derryfield went on to face Sunapee in the finals, where the Lakers won 1-0. It was a 19-0 undefeated championship season for Sunapee, who’ll finally graduate some of their stars after their girls’ soccer, basketball and softball teams went a combined 109-0-1 over the past two years.

By contrast, the Warriors lose not a single player from this year’s roster.

“My girls, they’ve definitely overachieved this year,” Claire said. “We’ve got two more years with all of them, plus the seventh- and eighth-graders ... Who knows what happens next year? We may not even be here, so we’ve got to enjoy the moment. There’s 17 teams that didn’t get here.”