After six innings of clawing its way back into the game, Stone Bridge could finally think realistically about winning the state title.
The Bulldogs, who trailed by as many as eight midway through Sunday’s AAA softball state championship game against Great Bridge, had cut the Wildcats’ advantage to a single run with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning.
But in a flash, Stone Bridge’s season was over. The Bulldogs’ 10-9 loss ended with a line drive off the bat of senior Kelly McDaniel into the glove of Great Bridge third baseman Delaney Ambrose, who fired to second to double off a Stone Bridge base runner.
“That’s one of the worst things possible. It’s right there in your hands and then it just slips away,” All-Met shortstop Nicole Prince said. “I’m really proud of everybody. We worked hard coming back.”
Shaken by the abrupt ending to its season, nearly the entire Stone Bridge roster was in tears following the final out at Westfield. Most opted to look away or bury their heads in their hands as Great Bridge received its championship trophy.
Great Bridge built its lead early in the game on the strength a two-run first inning followed by four-run outbursts in the third and fifth innings. The Wildcats were the beneficiaries of four Bulldogs errors as well as a third-inning call by the home plate umpire, who called Great Bridge first baseman Mikayla Parker safe at home even though Bulldogs catcher Olivia Tatara appeared to have her foot on the plate for the force out.
Stone Bridge (28-2) loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning, but couldn’t plate a runner. Prince was forced out at home for the first out on a close play at the plate, and the promising inning fizzled.
“Without saying any negative about the umpires, you never want the umpires to alter the outcome of the game,” Stone Bridge Coach Billy Rice said. “It is what it is. We had opportunities other places where we could have scored runs. . . . It’s tough. Let’s just say that.”
The loss was a painful ending to an otherwise impressive career for Prince, the Northern Region player of the year, who was hit by pitches in her final three plate appearances.
“I was just frustrated. I wanted to get a hit,” said Prince, who scored four of the Bulldogs’ nine runs. “I didn’t plan on getting hit in my last high school at-bat. I wanted to get a good piece of it.”