By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Worcester / Grafton – Recent years have been prosperous for veteran head coach John Gemme and his Grafton High School’s (GHS) varsity softball team having captured a pair of Division 2 state championships (2012, 2013), advancing to another (2014) and earning a spot in the Central Mass. finals (2015, 2016).
So with such a tradition of rich success and a winning culture like not many others in the region, few should be surprised that this year’s Indian bunch went out and did it once more; this time a 7-0 raking of top-seed Oakmont Regional that captured yet another Central Mass. Division 2 title at Worcester’s Rockwood Field on June 10.
“I’m incredibly proud of this team,” said senior co-captain Erin Cardoza. “I knew we were capable of coming out and winning the District final and I’m just proud of this team at how hard they’ve worked to get to this point and how we’ve come together.”
“We’ve been letting teams hang in there until about the fifth and sixth inning but we got a couple of runs early and that was big,” added Gemme. “There were some nerves but we’ve been in big tournaments before so we’re kind of used to it and it seems to pay off. These kids play tough.”
Grafton took advantage of some early-game Oakmont miscues and plated a pair of runs in the opening frame. Jess Evans opened with a free pass and minutes later would come across on a Sarah Remillard RBI single and a second baseman error. Remillard would swipe second and eventually score on an infield ground out.
Three runs would add to the lead in the fourth and allow the Indians ample breathing room. Savannah Small would open with a base hit that was followed by three wild pitches, an Oakmont error and singles by Jess Hamilton, Evans and Elisabeth Sudbey. Grafton would go on to add two more runs in the fifth all the while energizing their large and supportive fan base.
One of the clear distinctions that Grafton has over other competition is its two outstanding pitchers in Evans (0.21 ERA) and Small (1.28 ERA). Both are showstoppers and can easily bring teams to their knees. In its 4-0 quarterfinal victory over border-rival Northbridge High, Evans blanked the Rams, 4-0, yielding three hits while mowing down eleven. Versus Oakmont it was Small front and center allowing just four hits and striking out eleven. Grafton did not surrender a run (15-0) in its entire three-game playoff run.
“We’ve been alternating both pitchers all year and last time out Jess (Evans) pitched a heck of a game. It was tempting to stay with her because she has the hot hand but we’ve done this all year and it’s worked out so we’re confident that either one of them could do the job. Plus, they’re best of friends and they root one another on.”
“They both work really hard and to have both of them is a great comfort for the rest of us,” said Cardoza. “We still have to stay awake, we still have to do our job, but to know that we have them in front of us makes our jobs a lot easier.”
“Knowing I have such a great team behind me gives me so much confidence,” affirmed Small. “I know that I can throw strikes and I know that if the ball gets hit I have a fantastic team behind me and I know that they can field the ball really 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, Chloe Sanfacon and freshmen Hailey Johnson, Sarah Remillard and Maddie Berardi.