MHS gets walk off ‘W’

MILFORD – Delaney Parker couldn’t find words to describe her emotions following a 2-1 playoff win in eight innings over Souhegan on Wednesday afternoon.

So she instead pointed to the home dugout where her teammates crowded for a celebratory selfie.

“Look at them,” Parker said with a smile. “They’re my favorite nerds.”

Emotions were high after a game that saw a pair of strong pitching performances, lots of small ball and a walkoff in extra innings on a fielding miscue. While the eighth-seeded Milford High School softball team was jubilant, tears stained the faces of many Sabers players long after Carley Holtshouser crossed home plate for the winning run.

“There’s nothing magical you can say to make an extra-inning loss feel better,” Souhegan coach Andrea Bruneau said.

Wednesday’s game was highlighted by a pitcher’s duel between Parker and Souhegan’s Hailey Yabroudy. Both starters tossed complete games and forced their opponents to employ more bunts and stolen-base attempts to put balls in play, advance runners and try to score.

The strategy backfired for Milford on multiple occasions, as a pair of baserunners were thrown out at home trying to score on bunts back to the mound. But it worked out when it mattered most.

Holtshouser and Jen Carson led off the bottom of the eighth with singles. Cora Rogers got just under a pitch and flew out to shallow right field. With two on and one out, Spartans coach Jim Rines, to no one’s surprise, told No. 8 hitter Rachael Nelson to bunt.

Nelson laid a sacrifice in front of home plate and the resulting infielder’s throw was off-target, allowing Holtshouser to score from second to end the game.

Holtshouser threw her arms up as she touched home and was soon met by her teammates.

“(Yabroudy) was painting the outside corners with her curveball and her split and we couldn’t barrel it up so we had to put the ball on the ground and hope that they made a mistake,” Rines said. “That’s why we won.”

The offense may have capped the win. But Parker was the reason Milford reached eight innings to begin with. The sophomore allowed just one run on five hits over eight innings, allowing just four runners to reach scoring position. She walked one and struck out five.

“That’s the best game that I’ve seen from Delaney,” Rines said.

Yabroudy nearly matched Parker’s efforts. The sophomore gave up two runs on six hits, two walks and four strikeouts. Her efforts added pressure on Parker to keep pace throughout the game.

Parker said she was unfazed by the lack of run support.

“It doesn’t really bother me that much because I know my team, hitting, they’ll figure it out,” she said.

Although Bruneau was quick to credit Parker’s performance, she said the scoring struggles were a result of poor execution offensively.

“I think (Parker) did a nice job, but we didn’t adjust to the outside pitch and we chased some balls that were not strikes,” Bruneau said. “We are better hitters than we performed today.”

The Sabers struck first in the fourth inning for their only run of the game. Lauren McCormick laced a one-out double down the left-field line. She advanced to third on a throwing error by left fielder Stephanie Bishop.

Yabroudy grounded a slow roller to second base to score McCormick. The pitcher reached first safely when first baseman Julia Mazzeo failed to cover the bag in time.

The Spartans tied the game with a similar group of players to their winning run. Holtshouser hit a soft grounder to short and beat Hannah Cochran’s throw to first. Carson followed with a grounder back to the mound, but Yabroudy airmailed her throw to first, putting runners at second and third with no outs.

Holtshouser scored on a wild pitch by Yabroudy to tie the game at 1-1.

“All the pressure was on the offense, and in a game like this it’s going to come down to who is going to make the mistake, and baserunners and bunts,” Rines said. “Kids get nervous and tight, that’s what happens in 1-1 games.”