Woodsville Softball Team Engineers Another State Championship
Members of the Woodsville High softball team show off their latest piece of hardware — the NHIAA Division IV championship plaque — just before departing Plymouth State University after beating Wilton-Lyndeborough, 19-10, for the championship. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodsville’s Tori Clough (3) steals second base as the ball bounces out of the grasp of Wilton-Lyndeborough’s Sara Holka. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodsville catcher Julia Bowman embraces a teammate moments after the Engineers won their second NHIAA Division IV softball championship in four years in a 19-10 defeat of Wilton-Lyndeborough at Plymouth State University yesterday. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
The Engineers’ Sadie Matteson, right, is all smiles after scoring one of Woodsville’s runs. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Plymouth, n.h. — There came a point during yesterday’s NHIAA Division IV softball title game when Woodsville High coach Dana Huntington decided he was just going to ride the wave. It might break and dump he and his Engineers on the bottom, and it might crest and carry them to new heights.
But either way, it was clear to the fair-haired bench boss that trying to exercise control over the contest was futile.
“I was honestly helpless,’’ said Woodsville’s third-year coach. “What do you do? Just hang on for the ride? You get to a point where you don’t know what to do.”
Fortunately for Huntington, his players did. Swinging their bats in timely and discerning fashion, the Engineers pounded out 12 hits and drew 15 walks during a 19-10 defeat of defending champion Wilton-Lyndeborough at Plymouth State University. It was Woodsville’s second title in four years, both won with defeats of the Warriors.
“I knew we would score runs, but I had no idea it would be that many,’’ Huntington said, a bewildered tone to his voice. “And the way it unfolded? Insanity is the only way I can describe it.”
Woodsville appeared to be rolling in central New Hampshire clover when it took a 9-1 lead after its second at-bat. With standout senior Danelle Huntington pitching and a 13-game winning streak, a quick and easy rout appeared at hand. The contest, however, was only beginning.
“Danelle’s been tough as nails all year, but she started doubting herself,’’ said Dana Huntington, whose squad led 10-5 after two innings and 14-9 after three frames. “I told her, ‘I know it’s not the what you expected, but you just have to keep battling and be tougher than they are.’ That heart she has came back out, and our kids’ desire overall was amazing.”
Across the diamond, longtime Wilton-Lyndeborough coach Dennis Claire wasn’t too upset. His team began the season without an experienced pitcher, so standout shortstop Deanna Davidson volunteered to step into the circle.
The Warriors surrendered 19 runs during the fourth inning of their first game and lost 20-15. Wilton-Lyndeborough won a later contest 28-20 after leading 19-3, and allowed another opponent to score 10 times.
“To bring home a finalist trophy out of that situation is pretty good, because we’re used to not knowing what’s going to happen in any inning,’’ said Claire, whose program has won seven state titles and lost in the championship game six other times. “If you had asked me before the game if scoring 10 runs would be enough for us to win, I would have probably told you I needed a couple more.”
The game was tied 1-1 after an inning before Woodsville blew up for eight runs in the second. Kat Emley, Abby Simano, Julia Bowman and Molly Ruprecht had singles and Lottie Page had a double in that frame, while Davidson issued four walks and freshman reliever Sara Holka dished out two more.
The Engineers surrendered four runs when they next took the field, but responded by cranking out five more of their own during their third at-bat. Five walks, a Page single and two Warrior errors were featured in that outburst.
“I think I kind of settled a little bit and was giving up runs, but it was only the second inning and I realized there was a lot of ballgame left and I had to bear down,’’ said Danelle Huntington, who allowed 12 hits while striking out six Warriors and walking three. “My teammates lifted me up.”
Meanwhile, Holka “was struggling, and each inning I was hoping she’d get in her groove, because she can throw strikes,’’ Claire said. “But she’s just learning how to pitch, and she got nervous.”
The Wilton-Lyndeborough coach next tapped junior Sami Bosquet, a junior who didn’t pitch so much as lob the ball without a windup. It was somewhat akin to watching major league hitters try to cope with an effective knuckleballer, for the Engineers managed only five hits and five runs during the final four innings.
“We talked to the kids about being patient, because they don’t want to stand up there and walk; they want to hit the ball,’’ Dana Huntington said. “We just kind of survived it, I guess you’d say.”
Asked what what he found the most gratifying part of the season, Huntington didn’t hesitate, naming his daughter’s development into a top-flight pitcher. When incumbent ace Nara Burgess announced in November that she wouldn’t play softball as a senior, Danelle Huntington added a curveball and a screwball to her repertoire and threw for hours against a section of gymnasium wall with two dots painted on it, one above the other.
Danelle Huntington’s emergence contrasted her first foray into softball, when she struck out during every at-bat as a 7-year-old. But she eventually learned to hit and she applied the same grit to getting a grip on pitching.
“She worked her tail off this winter, and we started believing that things happen for a reason,’’ Dana Huntington said.
“When you have 16 or 17 girls who really, truly want to be involved, then magic happens.”
The enchantment wasn’t immediately evident, however, for the Engineers started 3-3 with two losses by a run and the other setback by two runs.
The team’s seniors met with their coach, who told them in no uncertain terms that the season was doomed if they couldn’t provide substantial leadership.
“We had to have a heart-to-heart talk and discover if they truly wanted to do it,’’ Dana Huntington said. “From that point, holy smokes, they stepped up. The heart and desire and the willingness to put the time and effort in just exploded from those kids.”
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3227.