THOMASTON >> Northwestern’s softball team left no doubters to its claim to sole possession of the Berkshire League Championship in a 15-2 romp over defending champion Thomaston Thursday afternoon at Thomaston High School.
Every Highlander did her job perfectly in a regular-season finale steering Northwestern (18-2; 17-1 BL) into next week’s Class M State Tournament ranked No. 3, just over NVL Champion Seymour.
Senior Kate Matava, normally a contact pitcher, set a personal record with 11 strikeouts, allowing just four Golden Bear hits along three walks.
Leadoff hitter Molly Hale (2-for-4, RBI) was on base and scoring every time she came up, thanks in part to cleanup hitter Jana Sanden (4-for-5; home run; double), a freshman whose 7 RBI were also a personal record.
Sydney Sanden, a year older, was 4-for-6 with an RBI in the No. 2 spot in the batting order.
Behind Matava, the Highlander defends was a smooth machine gunning down out after out in an error-free primo performance.
“It was a long journey,” said Matava, a freshman herself when the Highlanders last claimed the league championship in 2014.
“I’m just glad the weather held out,” smiled a relieved Coach Stacey Zematis, with one eye on the prospect of Northwestern having to play Friday following Thursday’s Senior Prom in a game that wouldn’t have counted for state tournament ranking and the other eye on a come-from-behind 10-9 win over Thomaston (10-10; 10-8 BL) a month ago.
Sunshine and 17 hits cleared the air for Zematis and the Highlanders, despite a strong effort by Thomaston junior pitcher Katie Everett (7 strikeouts), whose young defense let in six unearned runs along with 10 errors.
“I told the league All-Star committee we wouldn’t have won 10 games without (Everett),” said Golden Bear Coach Kelly Finlay.
Wednesday’s Highlander stampede began in the first inning with two runs on Thomaston’s first error, Sydney Sanden’s first hit, an RBI by Gina Weingart (2 RBI) and Jana Sanden’s first RBI.
Jana Sanden’s towering home run produced three of Northwestern’s five runs in the second and her double, two more in the third.
Down 9-0 after three innings, sunlight filtered through to the Bears in the fourth inning as Everett produced three pop flies in the top of the inning and hit a leadoff triple in the bottom. Alexa Sanson sent her home on a great sacrifice bunt.
But despite another run in the sixth inning, on a walk and an RBI single by Alexis Theriault, that was the last of the real daylight for Thomaston.
Northwestern scored six more runs in the final three innings, just two of them earned, as Highlander pinch hitters produced off the bench and Thomaston’s fielders continued to struggle.
“I told them I have expectations of making it past the first round (of the Class S Tournament),” said Thomaston Coach Finlay.
Meanwhile, Northwestern Coach Zematis remembered going undefeated for the 2012 BL championship, then crashing to a loss in Class M’s first round.
The Berkshire League championship is firmly in hand for the Highlanders his week.
Next week is a whole new beginning for both teams.
Northwestern 15, Thomaston 2
At Thomaston High School
Northwestern 252 014 1 – 15 17 0
Thomaston 000 101 0 – 2 4 10
WP: Kate Matava. LP: Katie Everett. HR: NW – Jana Sanden. 3B: T – Everett. 2B: NW – J. Sanden.
Records: Northwestern 18-2; 17-1 Berkshire League. Thomaston 10-10; 10-8 Berkshire League.