Warriors walk-off with D-IV title
PLYMOUTH – The Wilton-Lyndeborough High School softball team had already exceeded the expectations of coach Denny Claire just by playing in Saturday’s Division IV final, so it seemed only fitting that the championship wouldn’t come easy.
After blowing a four-run lead in the top of the seventh, pitcher Sara Holka hit a walk-off single in the bottom half to score Lexi Balam and clinch a Warriors’ title with a dramatic 10-9 win over No. 4 Portsmouth Christian Academy at Plymouth State University.
“I just wanted it so bad that I was like I’m gonna do it anyway I can,” Holka said. “Just get the ball in play. This is unbelievable.”
The win gave No. 2 WLC redemption after falling to Woodsville in last year’s final, sending its three seniors – Kim Edmunds, Sophie LeVert and Sami Bosquet – off with a first-place medal.
“It was anybody’s ball game,” Claire said. “I was really just happy to be here, and I told the girls, ‘We’re here to win, but if we don’t we had a great season.’
“I’m just happy to win it for the kids, for the three seniors. They wanted to win real bad.”
The Warriors came back to the dugout dejected after a championship slipped out of their grasp in the top of the seventh, but Claire reminded his players, “We only need one run, girls.”
That wouldn’t come easily, either. Balam, a seventh-grader, led off the inning with a single, and Lorrie Blais followed with a bunt-single to put two on with no outs. But Tesa Simpson flew out to left and Edmunds grounded into a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with two outs for Holka.
“Sara Holka was the one I wanted up there in that situation,” Claire said.
The sophomore swung at the first pitch see saw and drilled it into right field.
Balam crossed home amidst a mob of teammates, Edmunds rounded third and into the arms of Claire and Holka sprinted off the field a hero.
“I felt like the world was on my shoulders,” said Holka, who finished 4 for 5 at the plate with two runs and three RBIs. “My knees were shaking. I’m not even kidding right now. I swung at the first pitch and I didn’t know what to expect. It paid off.”
Holka also gave herself a win in the circle. The sophomore closed out her first year as starting pitcher with nine runs and eight strikeouts in seven complete innings.
The Warriors took a 9-5 lead into the seventh after Sami Bosquet cleared the bases with a three-run single and Jenna Bragdon drove in another with an RBI single. But that lead was erased by a furious rally by the Eagles to tie the game.
Holka walked the first two batters in the inning. After they advanced to third on a wild pitch, PCA’s Mikaela Harkovich drove them both home with a single to cut the deficit to 9-7.
Amelia Sheedy followed with a single, and Hannah Daly tied the game with a single of her own to score Harkovich and Sheedy.
“It was a good game to watch. It had to be. Exciting all the way until the end,” Claire said. “I actually said when it was 9-5 that this team wasn’t gonna quit because they had done it all year. Sure enough, they go ahead and tie it up.
“It was an exciting game, but I don’t really like them like that. I’d rather win by two or three runs.”
Bosquet finished 3 for 4 with five RBIs, including the game’s first two runs in the first inning to score Edmunds and Holka.
Bosquet came up limping in the top of the sixth after being slid into at third base, but delivered with the clutch single to right in the bottom half despite a knee injury.
WLC returns a majority of its team next season despite the loss of three seniors. Claire expects his team to be competing for a bid to Plymouth State again next year.
“Hopefully we can regroup and (replace) those three players,” he said.