Byline: Steve Farley
WORCESTER - After an 0-3 start, few would've expected Gardner to qualify as a solid fifth-seed for the tournament let alone reach the Central Mass. Division 1 final. Last night, the Wildcats stunned defending State Division 1 champion Shrewsbury, 10-3, at Worcester State College, putting a stamp on what's been an incredible run that's not over.
Gardner, 18-5, will meet third-seeded Shepherd Hill, which upset second-seeded Holy Name in the first semifinal yesterday, here at 6 p.m. tomorrow.
The Colonials finished 19-3.
"Fourteen girls came to play tonight," said Gardner coach Howie Klash, whose team won the CMass Division 1 championship two years ago before losing to Western Mass. champion Taconic in the state semifinals. "We hit the ball hard and we hit the ball often. I've been saying this for the last three or four weeks, we're not the same team that we were at the beginning of the year. We beat a great team over there. What makes me happy, too, is I have eight girls from that (championship) team. They're all juniors and seniors now, but they were all freshmen and sophomores then. I can't say enough about how proud I am of how the Gardner girls played."
The Wildcats took advantage of nine Shrewsbury errors en route to seven unearned runs. Both teams plated three runs in the first inning, but Gardner kept the pressure on by scoring two runs in the second, one run apiece in the fourth and sixth and three runs to seal it in the seventh. Colonials' pitcher, UNC-Wilmington-bound Amanda Aditays gave up 12 hits and three walks, but stuck out 10. All the errors, including two charged to her resulted in seven unearned runs. In fact, the three earned runs and six hits happened in the seventh.
"I can't explain it," Shrewsbury coach Phil Chevalier said of the poor defense. "We didn't have that many errors all year combined. It was a total implosion tonight. I feel bad for the seniors because their legacy will be losing a game like this. At least they have the state championship to look back on. I think, too, with eight returning seniors, there was a lot of pressure put on them. There was somewhat of an expectation of them from what happened last year. I thought Amanda probably threw one of her best games tonight."
Thanks to three Shrewsbury...