WINSTED — Northwestern’s softball team won an early-season Berkshire League battle of unbeatens with Thomaston 11-5 Friday afternoon at Northwestern High School.
But despite the relatively wide gap in scoring on a day with hurricane-like winds, no pitcher will like facing either of these teams this year. Between them, they blasted nine extra-base hits into the gale (6-4 Northwestern), evenly spread between three home runs, three triples and three doubles.
“Basically, they hit the ball more than we did and their pitcher (Ava Blanchard) was solid,” said Thomaston coach Kelly Finlay, whose Golden Bears arrived with a 5-0 record, including a 10-1 pasting at usually-strong Nonnewaug.
“They had a lot of hits; they just didn’t string them together,” said Northwestern coach Stacy Zematis, who came in worried the Highlanders’ 3-0 record didn’t include any real challengers or top-of-the-line pitchers.
Blanchard and Thomaston pitcher Kaya Johnson are all of that, but Highlander batters started cranking with four runs in the first two innings before the Bears opened up with three in the top of the third.
Highlander leadoff batter Ava Hampton (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 4 runs scored), a junior transfer from St. Paul Catholic who led the state with 15 home runs as a freshman, set the tone with an opening double in the bottom of the first inning.
RaeLynn Peregaux (3-for-4) rapped the first of her six RBI for the day with a single for Northwestern’s 1-0 lead. Next inning, her double drove in two more runs as the Highlanders hopped on an error, hit batter and a walk for a 4-0 margin.
Thomaston’s first power surge came in the top of the third. Caitlin Magnuson (3-for-4) started it with a lead-off triple. Back-to-back homers by Kristen Foell and MaKenzie Fairfax closed it to 4-3 Northwestern.
Next inning, the Highlanders revved their engines again with five runs on five hits capped by a bases-loaded triple by Peregaux.
Northwestern finished its scoring in the fifth inning with the biggest blast of all — a two-run homer by Hampton, clearing the fence in deep right field for the first time in recent memory.
Meanwhile, scorched in the third, Blanchard bore down for 10 strikeouts and just two more Thomaston runs in the fifth and sixth, including a triple by Emma Sanson.
“I’m glad to have (Hampton) back with us,” said Blanchard. “We started out together.”
“I feel better,” said Coach Zematis, with a quality win under the Highlander belt.