Close call: Case softball erupts for nine runs to stave off elimination in Elite 8 game

SWANSEA — Senior shortstop Lily Picard has seen a lot of games during her Case softball career.

Nothing like Saturday afternoon's Elite 8 contest against eighth seed Hampshire Regional at Brown Elementary School.

Down to their last six outs and trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Division 4 defending state champion Cardinals fought off elimination with an impressive, nearly 15-minute barrage at the plate.

"This was a lot more exciting than a blowout," said Picard after No. 1 seed Case advanced to its fifth consecutive Final Four with a 11-3 comeback win over the Raiders. "There was anxiety but I think we do well with that. It's impressive how we're able to keep a level head when it comes to those big stake games."

Case's Megan Smith holds up the Final Four trophy while Skye Dupre, Lily Picard and Breanna Fontes hold up the banner after the Cardinals beat Hampshire Regional in the Division 4 Elite 8 game, 11-3, at Brown Elementary School in Swansea June 8, 2024.
Case's Megan Smith holds up the Final Four trophy while Skye Dupre, Lily Picard and Breanna Fontes hold up the banner after the Cardinals beat Hampshire Regional in the Division 4 Elite 8 game, 11-3, at Brown Elementary School in Swansea June 8, 2024.

With the win, the No. 1 seed Cardinals (21-1) advanced to the state semifinal where they will face fourth seed Advanced Math & Science at a time and date to be determined.

"It is easy to forget this year that we have a young team," Case head coach Shannon Silva said. "This is the first time in 22 games that I saw some people being nervous. We have a lot of new players with a lot of different roles because we've been so successful. This was a big stage today but once we got that little spark then we were good."

Freshman Lila Alvarez collected the win in the circle for the Cardinals. She scattered seven hits, walked three batters, hit a batter while striking out a game-high 12 batters in her 134-pitch effort. In the sixth, Alvarez' slap single up the middle with the bases loaded gave Case its first lead of the game.

"My previous at bats, I haven't done that well," she said. " I told myself that 'you have to get the bat on the ball no matter what.' I know we scored nine runs in that inning. I was so pumped."

The 2024 Case softball team holds up the Final Four trophy and banner after beating Hampshire Regional in the Division 4 Elite game, 11-3, at Brown Elementary School in Swansea June 8, 2024
The 2024 Case softball team holds up the Final Four trophy and banner after beating Hampshire Regional in the Division 4 Elite game, 11-3, at Brown Elementary School in Swansea June 8, 2024

The Cardinals sent 13 batters to the plate, plating nine runs to erase a one-run deficit and turn it into an unsurmountable, eight-run cushion at 11-3. Meghan Pereira began things with a sacrifice fly that scored Skye Dupre, who reached on the first of three errors in the inning. Eight of the next nine Case batters reached base with Ella Preston, Megan Smith (3-for-3) and Alvarez each contributed two run hits in the inning.

"We have a young team and we're learning from their experience from their success to the failures," Raiders head coach Brian McGan said. "They haven't learned from the failures yet. That happens when you play well for five innings. But then in the sixth you play well, but a couple of errors put you in a bad position. That's when you have to stay together. We kind of fell apart."

Hampshire (15-8) freshman pitcher Ryanne Dubay and Alvarez each tossed scoreless innings before the Raiders struck first with two runs in the top of the third inning to take a 2-0 lead. Rachael Hickox drew a walk and Wodecki doubled her home with a deep drive that bounced off the wall in center. Teagan Charles then drove Wodecki home with an RBI single.

Case responded in the bottom half, thanks to a two-out, two-run bomb by Fontes over everything in center that tied the game at 2-2. It was Fontes' 100th career hit and fourth home run in the last two games.

But Hampshire retook the lead in the fourth at 3-2 after loading the bases with one out. Wodecki was plunked by a 1-2 pitch that drove in Chelsea Vanasse. That set the stage for a wild comeback.

"This shows us that we can power through adversity and keep pushing when we need to," Fontes said. ''It took us longer than usual to adjust, which was uncharacteristic for us so far. But it is OK because we pulled it out. Once we got the bats going we kind of stepped on their throats after that."

Notes

Beside Smith's three hits, she also scored twice and drove in two runs. Fontes also scored twice with two RBI. Preston had a pair of hits and scored a run for the Cardinals ... Woodecki drove in two runs while Thayer had two hits for the Raiders.

Herald News and Taunton Daily Gazette sports editor Steven Sanchez can be reached at ssanchez@heraldnews.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Chezsports

This article originally appeared on The Herald News: Case softball heads to fifth consecutive Final Four appearance

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