Third straight title will be tough task for Milford softball
Dynasties in high school sports are hard to come by. Bishop Guertin lacrosse certainly has one, with nine titles in 13 straight finals trips.
Campbell baseball has had four titles during this decade.
Milford softball? Well, other than BG boys lacrosse, the Spartans were the only local team with back-to-back spring championships this season.
The only thing besides injuries or great competition that can impede a dynasty is graduation. The Spartans – and several good local softball teams like Alvirne and Bishop Guertin – are experiencing that right now.
The Spartans, with the calm, cool and collective approach by pitcher Delaney Parker and some timely hitting – their defense wasn’t as sharp as
normal – made it through a harrowing tournament. Once they got to the Final Four, all they had to do was beat top seed and local archrival Souhegan, and a team that had won 12 straight in Pembroke. Piece of cake, right?
“No, this wasn’t easy at all,” Spartans coach Jim Rines said. “We had Pelham back-to-back during the season, and Goffstown, ConVal was mixed in there. Those were three tough games and we lost all three of them.”
But something clicks in June with teams that are poised to win. Milford is the second straight back-to-back title winner in Division II, as Coe-Brown won consecutive titles in 2014 and 2015.
“Give these kids credit,” Rines said. “They’re 8-0 in June the last two years. They just won their 51st game as seniors. They’ve done a great job.”
The Spartans lose mainstays Parker, Jen Carson (some key hits), Carley Holtshouser, Rachael Nelson and Christina Arnoldy, all of whom were keys.
But they also had six freshmen on this year’s team, unheard of almost for a champion. That included Amanda Atkinson, who had 28 hits, and next year she and another freshman from this year, Jenna DeAngelis, will play different roles from what they did this year.
“Nothing bothers her,” Rines said. “Next year she’s going to see time in the circle with DeAngelis. Both those kids are going to take the place of Parker.”
But a lot of things have to fall into place to win a title, as Rines knows all too well.
“We didn’t talk about that,” Rines said. “How you get there, you’ve got to have the right bracket, you’ve got to get seeded right, you’ve then got to get on a roll to play. Our whole goal going into this was, we told the kids that the only way you can defend your title is if you play on the last day of the season. So by getting (to the finals) they had that opportunity.”
But again, two straight is tough. Before Coe-Brown, Portsmouth had done it in back in 2008-09. Of course, many will remember Salem being the dominant program in Division I for several years. The Blue Devils had a couple of big stretches, the last being six straight from 1998-2003, and they won the title last year.
“It is so hard,” Rines said of back-to-back titles. “It’s hardly ever done. But we don’t talk about it. The kids have goals. We talk about pitch-hit-catch. We talk about the ball. The ball tells us what to do on the field.
“It’s the game and the ball. It’s not the kid in the other uniform and the other school, you know, it’s the game itself and the ball. So we kind of simplify it.”
Rines will no doubt use that same approach next season as the Spartans try for a threepeat.