It was yet another chapter in the Needham-Wellesley high school sports rivalry, as Monday’s game featured two softball teams looking to add an additional win to their records. The Rockets scored five runs while the Raiders accounted for four, which resulted in Needham winning their second regular season and conference game, 5-4.
“It’s not just about the win. It’s our second one, by the way,” Needham head coach Mark Hernandez said after the win. “I don’t mean this in a bad way; we probably would have folded [during the seventh inning] when we dropped those pop flies. I just kept on telling them that it’s not the fact that we won, it’s the way they kept going again, and that’s what I’m encouraged about [after today].”
Needham was held scoreless through the first two innings, as Wellesley’s Melissa Demeo, who finished the game with 11 strikeouts, struck out five of the first six batters she faced. However, Needham’s offense came alive during the bottom of the third inning when Caley Davidson hit a RBI double, which scored Jacqui O’Leary and Katie Paulson.
During the fourth inning, Wellesley tried to provide some support for their pitcher when Nicole Yee scored the team’s first run. But the Raiders’ comeback hopes were dashed during the bottom of the inning when Needham tacked on two more runs thanks to Lydia Tsouridis and Alyssa DiBella.
Needham would score once more during the bottom of the sixth when Sophie Shulman drove in DiBella, which gave the Rockets a commanding 5-1 lead.
“[Caley] had a timely hit, Alyssa when we had that hit and run,” Hernandez said. “It fell in the right spot and brought in Sophie off the bench to get that last run in. [If] Sophie didn’t get that ball on the ground to score that run, [we’d still be playing].”
Despite scoring five runs, Needham’s offense compiled four hits and left four runners in scoring position during six offensive series at the plate, and that was all due to Demeo, who seemed incredibly composed and relaxed after allowing five runs.
“I think she pitched well enough to win the game,” Wellesley head coach Kathy Brophy said. “I don’t think she got the support [from our offense], quite honestly, so credit to her, she pitched a good game.”
Entering the top of the seventh, Hernandez stressed to his team that they needed to focus on recording outs and not worry about if Wellesley scored. The Raiders did score when Ellie Decaprio hit an RBI triple, which sent Katie Stewart and KJ Sanger to the plate. Decaprio scored two batters later due to a Needham balk call.
Despite all the late excitement and energy, Needham regrouped and watched O’Leary silence Wellesley’s final three batters to secure the win.
“It’s exciting to be able to come back like that, but I’ll give my kids credit for not giving up. I wish that we would have been that way earlier in the game as opposed to waiting until the seventh,” Brophy said.
“We haven’t been in that position too many times [this season], and it’s not so much a problem as it is the inexperience of it, knowing that you’re up by four runs and just playing with confidence,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez’s squad earned a great deal of confidence, especially with a win against the Raiders. Will they build off their experience from the top of the seventh?
Hernandez said his young squad is learning and will keep improving every game.
The same can be said for Wellesley, as Brophy’s squad has only compiled one win in six games this season. She is hopeful the Raiders can improve going forward.
“We’re digging down deep,” Brophy said. “I don’t have the answers. [We’re] just going to try and keep working.”