By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Grafton – It’s regular season stretch-run time and that can only mean playoffs in sight once again for the Grafton High School (GHS) varsity softball team.
Under the tutelage of veteran head coach John Gemme, the Indians have captured a pair of Division 2 state championships (2012, 2013), advanced to another (2014) and earned a spot in the Central Mass. finals (2015, 2016). During that period, Grafton has rightly earned the distinction as one of the premier teams to beat in not just SWCL but across the spectrum of Central Mass. teams.
“It’s a goal of all of us and we’ve been talking a lot about that,” said senior co-captain Erin Cardoza in reference to a 2017 deep run in the District Tournament. “We believe we have the talent and cohesiveness to go far and that would be a dream come true for us.
“We’re really excited at this point. We’ve gone deep into the season and all the nerves are gone and we’re just excited to play, especially all the seniors. We’re enjoying our last games together.”
“You have to be a really good team obviously and you have to have some luck and you have to win these 2-1 games which can go either way,” Gemme explained. “It’s going to be tough but it would be a great feeling especially for the seniors to go out as champions because when all is said and done this is something that can’t be taken away from them. They can say they left a legacy with this school.”
The Indians have been getting the job done through the necessary combination of pitching, strong offense and steely defense, but perhaps what stands out most is the work emanating from the circle on a daily basis. Jess Evans and Savannah Small have been stingy in run allowance as witnessed by their minuscule ERAs of 0.17 and 1.62, respectively while combining for ten shutouts. Confidence in the two hurlers has been a major factor in the team’s success, say players and coaches.
“We’ve had consistent pitching all season and going in to this year we knew we lost some really good players last year, but that didn’t faze us because we knew we were going to play hard with these pitchers behind us,” said senior co-captain Elizabeth Sudbey. “They have gone above and beyond this year. We’re so lucky to have them.”
“Our pitching makes everyone more comfortable because we know we’re going to be in it every game because we have pitching that’s not going to allow a lot of runs,” Gemme added. “Every now and then you might have a pitcher that has a bad outing but we haven’t had that. Hopefully it stays that way.”
The offense can hardly be considered a soft spot for these Indians. Sudbey leads all others in SWCL A with a remarkable batting average of .556 but she is hardly alone in swinging the bat with positive results. Others dominating in the batting order include Cardoza (.462), Hailey Johnson (.400), Bella Thornton (.385), Evans (.365), Sarah Remilard (.359), Small (.357), Rebecca Haggerty (.333) and Anna Bertrand (.306). Johnson, the team’s catcher, and Remilard have cracked the lineup as freshmen and will be counted on for seasons to come
“This is a great group of girls and we’ve been playing together since we were six years old,” said Sudbey of the team’s dominance so far this season. “The fact that we’re so close helps out our team momentum and cohesiveness of the team because when you have each others’ backs it makes a team a team.
“I’ve known that this team was going to go far and they’ve exceeded my expectations. Since freshman year it’s (championship) been a dream of ours and we’ve come so close and it would be amazing to end our high school careers with that big win.”
Despite the team’s early-on securing of a post-season spot, there is much to play for with seedings on the line and doing all the right things to be prepared when the time comes. Gemme knows all too well the importance of gaining experience and having a team that plays together as a goal-oriented group and not just individuals rowing separately in the wrong direction.
“We’re hoping that we can learn something every time we get out there and start feeling more and more comfortable,” he said. “We’re playing good teams in this last stretch now which is exactly what we wanted going into playoffs. This makes us work hard for seven full innings.
“These are really good kids. We started the season knowing we had really good pitching. We knew we would have good chemistry although we weren’t sure what the freshmen were like and how they’d fit in. But all of them have fit in really well. They enjoy each other’s company. They even thank me at the end of practices and I think it’s because of the good chemistry that we’re playing so well.”
Members of the 2017 Grafton High varsity softball team are seniors Elizabeth Sudbey, Bella Thornton, Erin Cardoza, Caroline King; juniors Savannah Small, Jess Evans, Jess Hamilton, Anna Bertrand; sophomore Rebecca Haggerty and freshmen Hailey Johnson, Sarah Remilard and Maddie Berardi.