Engineers Shut Down in D-IV Semifinal

  • Kera Butson waves to her Woodsville High softball teammates from the press box at Plymouth State University’s Chase Field prior to the Engineers’ NHIAA Division IV semifinal against Derryfield on Wednesday in Holderness, N.H.. Butson sang the national anthem.

  • Woodsville High pitcher Alyssa Prest delivers a pitch to Derryfield’s Emily Moll in the third inning of Wednesday’s NHIAA Division IV softball semifinal in Holderness, N.H.

  • Woodsville High’s Sarah Britton watches the flight of a foul ball during a third-inning at-bat in the Engineers’ NHIAA Division IV softball semifinal game with Derryfield in Holderness, N.H., on Wednesday, June 7, 2018. The sixth-seeded Cougars defeated the second-ranked Engineers, 2-1.

  • The Woodsville High softball team awaits the start of its NHIAA Division IV semifinal against Derryfield in Holderness, N.H., on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. The Engineers, making their first appearance at Plymouth State University in four years, lost to the Cougars, 2-1.

Valley News Sports Editor
Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Holderness, n.h. — Woodsville High softball coach Dana Huntington knew exactly what Derryfield pitcher Emily Moll was going to bring to Wednesday’s NHIAA Division IV semifinal at Plymouth State University. And his second-ranked Engineers were still powerless to do anything about it.

The sixth-ranked Cougars’ senior hurler took a pair of unearned first-inning runs from her teammates and made them stick in a 2-1 upset of Woodsville at Chase Field. The Engineers (16-2), making their first PSU semifinal visit in four years, plated their own unearned run in the home first and managed just three hits as Moll struck out 11 in a tour de force performance.

Senior Alyssa Prest took the tough-luck loss, limiting Derryfield (14-5) to three hits and three walks with three strikeouts. Prest, who worked the bulk of the game with a bloody gash on the ring finger of her pitching hand, let only two balls leave the infield all day.

“We faced her three years ago at our place; last year, we lost to her, 5-4, at Derryfield,” Huntington said of Moll. “We knew what we were going to get into. I had enough information on her. I knew exactly what I was going to do. We worked on it as much as we possibly could, and it’s just a matter of putting it in play.”

Not that Woodsville didn’t have its chances. The Engineers stranded runners in scoring position in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, getting hits or employing Derryfield errors without success. Moll took Woodsville out in order in the seventh — the last of her three 1-2-3 frames — to secure Derryfield’s trip to Saturday’s state final.

“We’re battle-tested,” Derryfield coach Dan Nolan said. “In the southern division of the state, we have tight games every single game. We keep punching and keep punching and keep punching, and eventually if you do it long enough, they’re going to go down.”

Both teams showed some tournament nerves in the opening inning, when all of the scoring came about.

Prest walked Derryfield’s first two batters to start the game, then appeared to settle down to induce back-to-back ground-ball outs. With runners at second and third, Prest knocked down a two-out Taylor Santosuosso comebacker, but her throw missed Woodsville first baseman Morgan Wagstaff, scoring both Cougars for a 2-0 lead.

The Engineers nearly equaled the game right away. Leadoff hitter Wagstaff got to second base when her fly ball to shallow right field eluded the Derryfield defense. Suzy Bazzell followed with a ringing double over Cougar left fielder Margaret Abate to plate Wagstaff.

Abate adroitly sent the ball back to the infield, and shortstop Brooke Nolan relayed to third baseman Anna Welch to catch Bazzell attempting to stretch out a triple. Moll then retired the next 10 Woodsville batters in order — seven via strikeout — to set the tone for the contest.

Huntington credited Moll’s rise ball as the culprit for most of the Engineers’ Ks.

“At this level, D-IV, we don’t see it very often,” the Woodsville coach said. “It’s hard to duplicate in practice. She does a good job with it in suckering you into thinking it’s something you can hit.”

McKenzie Dennis launched a two-out triple over center field in the Woodsville fourth, but never made it home. Maggie Daly singled to open the fifth, moved over on a Sarah Britton sacrifice bunt and went no further. Prest reached second on a two-out outfield error in the sixth only to watch the frame end with a Moll strikeout.

“She averages about 10, 12 strikeouts a game,” Nolan said of his ace. “She mixes the ball, she’s tough to hit and she spins it great.”

And prepare as they might, try as they did, Woodsville couldn’t solve the puzzle.

Fungoes: Retired longtime Plymouth High baseball coach Tom Underwood served as official scorer. … The game started about five minutes late because of passing showers. … The game was stalled for another five minutes with one out in the second when umpires noticed Prest’s bleeding finger. A trainer’s attention and some bandages solved the issue. … Woodsville’s Wagstaff had a solid defensive day at first base. The freshman snagged an Emily Nolan liner and caught Welch leaning off the bag for an unassisted double play to close the top of the fourth. She added another nonchalant backhand snag of an Abate drive in the seventh. … Both starting pitchers will continue to play softball in college. Huntington said Prest, who missed her entire junior year with a knee injury, will join the program at Maine’s Husson University. Nolan said Moll is bound for Pennsylvania’s Franklin & Marshall College for the same future. … The Engineers graduate nine, although just four started Wednesday’s contest.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3218.