Sousa, Collette help Hudson softball overcome early Shrewsbury surge

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Sousa, Collette help Hudson softball overcome early Shrewsbury surge
Hudson celebrates Sam Collette’s home run. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

HUDSON – White uniform covered in dirt from sliding on the basepaths, Hudson’s Livi Sousa stood proudly after the game wearing gold necklace. The necklace – which includes an image of a hawk, a softball and the team’s three main tenets of trust, accountability and commitment – is given to the “Player of the Game” by the team’s coaches.

Sousa’s extra bling represented her extra-special performance, and the honor was well-earned.

Led by Sousa’s offensive and defensive prowess, the Hudson Hawks defeated the Mid-Wach-A-rival Shrewsbury Colonials, 6-2, in the Sheryl Jones Memorial Tournament on Tuesday afternoon at O’Donnell Field. The win moved Hudson’s softball program – composed of just 12 athletes – to 4-0 on the season and into the tournament championship on Thursday.  

“They’re a special group. I have to say, the leadership is amazing. Our team culture is going to take us far. The kids have a blast: They know how to have fun, but also know how to come everyday and put the work in. If we continue to hit like we can, I know we’ll have a pretty special year,” Hudson Head Coach Laura Bowen told the Community Advocate after the win. 

Although Hudson ultimately walked away victorious, the Colonials jumped out to an early lead. A first-inning double by Marin Agbay (2-4, 2B, 1B), followed by singles from Varsha Swaminathan (2-4, 2 1B, RBI) and Emma Ellis put Shrewsbury ahead 2-0. Throughout the game, the back half of Shrewsbury’s order continued to produce, including McKenna Holloran (2-3, 2 1B) and Ava Lynch (2-3, 2 1B). Bea Millar had an RBI in the first inning. 

For the Colonials, who were outmatched by Hudson in last year’s Sheryl Jones Memorial Tournament game, the start was promising. After rain and snow delayed games throughout the region, the matchup against Hudson marked Shrewsbury’s second game this season, their first action since April 1. With so long between games, Shrewsbury Head Coach Jamie Millett was proud of her team. 

“We’ve got a really great group of kids. We’ve got a young team. They’re super competitive, and we’ve got some talent on the mound. I think if we pushed a couple more hits through, especially with runners in scoring position, it’s definitely a different ballgame. We’re this close – one hit from breaking it open,” Millett said.

She noted that her team left eight runners on base – including leaving the bases loaded in the fourth. 

“But I’m super optimistic. It’s still early in the year and we’re just going to keep chugging away and it’s going to be good,” she said.

The Shrewsbury bats went cold after the early-inning rally. Hudson sophomore Taylor Attaway pitched all seven innings, registering five strikeouts, and giving her team an opportunity to pull ahead. In the bottom of the first inning, Sousa (2-2, 3B, 2B, SB) tripled and scored on Lauren O’Malley’s RBI single. In the fourth inning, Sam Collette smacked the ball beyond the left-field fence, tying the game at 2-2. 

Collette’s home run was the highlight in an otherwise quiet middle-inning stretch for the Hawks. Shrewsbury’s Maddie Bentley hurled 5.2 innings, holding Hudson’s offense to the two runs over four innings. With Bentley keeping the Hawks’ bats at bay, Hudson turned to “small ball” to get ahead. 

In the fifth inning, Hudson walked three times, laid down bunts and moved base-by-base around the infield. When it came Sousa’s time to bunt, the Shrewsbury throw was high, opening the floodgates and allowing Hudson to move ahead 4-2. 

“I just told the kids to have quality at-bats. We’re going to use the ‘small ball’ game, get those bunts down and put pressure on them. It’s big in a tight game like that. That’s what you’ve got to do – that’s the stuff that makes the difference,” Bowen said. 

A sixth-inning double by Hudson lead-off hitter Alyssa Davis and another extra-base hit by Sousa gave the Hawks two more insurance runs, putting the team ahead 6-2. Attaway made quick work of the Colonials late in the game, and Hudson prevailed.

“It was a good win for us. I’m really happy – we did start off slow, but it was a lot of nerves. I mean, we have a winning streak against them and we didn’t want to break that. It was a good team win: We came back, we all worked together,” said Sousa.

Friends turned enemies – for two hours

While most opposing coaches may dread facing Sousa, that wasn’t completely true for Millett. Millett has served as Sousa’s hitting coach for the last eight years, helping Sousa become the explosive offensive talent that would help take down Millett’s Shrewsbury team on Tuesday. Sure, facing Sousa is frustrating, but there’s also an element of happiness and pride.

“It’s super mixed emotions because I’m really proud of her, but it’s also like, ‘Ugh!’ at the same time. Livi is one of the best kids – I’ve been hitting with her since she was 10… I love to see her be successful. I joke with her before the game, ‘Good luck, but not too much luck!’ It’s good. If a kid is going to crush the ball off of us, I want it to be her. I can live with that,” Millett said. 

Sousa, who is committed to play softball at Southern New Hampshire University, loves the support from Millett.

“When I get a hit, she’s always like ‘Who’s your hitting coach?’ It’s great to play her. It’s a nice way to play,” she said.

And, of course, Sousa’s current coach couldn’t be prouder of one of her star seniors. 

“She’s worked so hard in the offseason. She’s an incredible second baseman… She came up big for us, and she covers so much ground out here too. She’s so important; she’s one of our captains and a huge leader on and off the field,” Bowen said. 

But Millett’s ties to the Hawks are even deeper than Sousa. Millett runs hitting sessions with several other Hudson athletes, played for Hudson growing up, and even went to high school with Bowen. Millett compared it to the “Curse of the Bambino,” when Babe Ruth left the Red Sox for the Yankees, and the Red Sox went 86 years without winning the championship.

“There’s a lot of history to this game. We joke about it, but it actually eats my soul up a little bit. One of these days, we’re going to get that win against Hudson,” Millett said. 

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