Stoughton High Softball Slugs Way into Postseason Tournament
The Black Knights beat Norton 12-2 Tuesday afternoon at home on senior day to clinch a spot in the state tournament.
After the final out of Tuesday’s 12-2 win over Norton, pitcher Jess Olans jumped up into catcher Molly Zuk’s arms, the two celebrating Stoughton’s berth in the postseason tournament. They were soon joined by the rest of their teammates, who spent the next couple of minutes jumping up and down near home plate.
It has been four long years since the Stoughton High softball team has qualified for the postseason tournament. The Black Knights managed only a handful of wins a year ago, but came into this season determined to earn a berth into the postseason, a goal that the team has had since the final out in the final game of 2010.
After a slow start (3-6), Stoughton had its back against the wall the entire season, and finally was confronted with the task of having to win three of its last four games of the regular season to achieve its postseason goal.
On Tuesday afternoon, in front of a home crowd on Senior Day, Stoughton won its third straight in a 12-2 rout of non-league foe Norton, to secure a spot in the postseason tournament.
“The team never gave up on the goal to make the state tournament and we went through a lot of bumps in the road to get here and I’m very proud of this team for continuing believing in itself,” Stoughton coach Janet Sullivan said.
The victory put Stoughton (10-9 overall) over the coveted .500 mark for the first time this season and gave the Black Knights its second win over Norton this year. Stoughton needed to reach 10 wins to qualify for the tournament.
Over a span of four days, Stoughton has beaten Sharon 2-1, Canton 4-0, and Norton behind great pitching from Olans, sound defense that hasn’t made an error in more than two games, and timely hitting from the entire batting order.
“[Olans] has learned that she doesn’t need to be overpowering to win games, with the ability that she has to use so many pitches and different speeds to keep the opposing batters off balance,” Sullivan said.
“Our team was determined and focused to qualify for the state tournament and our resiliency through hard times paid off, and as the season continued we kept getting better, more confident and we started to display it with improved play on the field.”
Stoughton had all 17 players contribute in the victory, led by Colleen Flaherty with four hits and four RBIs. Jordan Angelos had three hits, including a triple, Olans had two hits and two RBIs and Zuk had two hits and two RBIs
Stoughton got on the scoreboard with two quick runs in the first inning. Flaherty and Angelos got things started with singles and scored on an error and a Zuk single.
The Black Knights scored four more runs in the second inning, to take a 6-0 lead. Again it was Flaherty and Angelos with singles, and with the help of three Norton errors, two walks and a sacrifice fly by Olans, things began to unravel for Norton and starting pitcher Miranda Donato.
“We have a young team with only three seniors and we were coming off a tough loss that eliminated us from postseason, and we didn’t come to play and Stoughton took advantage of the opportunities that we gave them,” Norton coach Wayne Morse said.
Norton did cut the deficit to 6-1, scoring in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Ashley Cibotti, but the mini-comeback was short-lived when Stoughton responded with three more runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Angelos had a triple followed by two walks and two wild pitches and a sacrifice fly that gave the black Knights a commanding, 9-1, advantage.
Norton got another run in the fifth on a Kathy Remick RBI single, but Olans got out of further trouble.
Olans had nine strikeouts, no walks and scattered eight hits for the win.
Stoughton got another run in the fifth inning on an Olans RBI single and added two more in the sixth on a two-run double by Flaherty.
Norton (7-12) will complete its season with a Wednesday game at Medfield. Stoughton will end its regular season with a Hockomock League crossover game, at home on Friday, against either Franklin (third place in the Kelley-Rex Division) or Mansfield (second place), depending if Stoughton finishes second or third in the Davenport Division. Stoughton and Sharon are vying for second place.