'Cats' Boris bombs Reds; Three-HR day lifts Gardner.


Byline: Jay Gearan

GARDNER - Her Gardner High teammates call her "Guns." And for good reason. When Nikki Boris connects, the softball takes off like a bullet.

Yesterday, Boris unloaded three home runs - including a game-ending grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning - as the fifth-seeded Wildcats blasted 12th-seeded Fitchburg High, 18-0, in the opening round of the Central Mass. Division 1 playoffs.

Two-time defending champion Gardner (17-4) travels to Dudley to play fourth-seeded Shepherd Hill Regional in a quarterfinal game at noon tomorrow.

"I just felt nice and relaxed at the plate today," said Boris, who finished with an amazing 10 RBIs, including the final four when her walk-off slam - a liner over the right-field fence - invoked the mercy rule.

Boris, a junior, rocketed a two-run homer to right-center in the first, added a three-run shot to left in the third, and finished with four hits.

"Three home runs, and she even gets a single when we were trying to walk her," marveled Fitchburg coach Tim O'Brien, adding: "Gardner brought out the bats today and played very well. We lost to a better team."

"What a day for Nikki Boris," added Gardner coach Howie Klash. "Just a great display of hitting."

For the Wildcats' Julia Barrett, it was another great display of pitching. She allowed just one hit and struck out 11.

"Julia is pitching well," Klash said of his junior ace right-hander. "Our overall team effort was excellent. We have experience in this tournament and we're just hoping to stay focused and move on."

Fitchburg's Ashley Forgues reached on an error in the fourth, and...

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