The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School softball team lost 11-2 to Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School on Monday, in a game that was remarkable from several perspectives.
The Vineyarders have done a lot of character building in a 4-15 season, which will end Friday with a 3:15 pm home game against Bourne High School at Vineyard Baseball Park in Oak Bluffs. They might have been forgiven for mailing in the last three games. That they did not was a wonderful experience for the team, and for the dozen or so fans who got to see two completely different Vineyarder games over the seven-inning contest against the D-Y Dolphins, who are 12-1 in the mighty Atlantic Coast League.
Before the game, Vineyarder Coach Don Herman noted his team had played seven games in 10 days, and would play half its schedule in the last two weeks of the season. Since the Vineyarders lost star pitcher Samantha Robinson to a broken leg and dislocated ankle in a win over O’Bryant High School last week, junior Jessica Sonia now gets to pitch every day of the cramped schedule.
Certainly, the Vineyarders looked like a tired bunch in the first three innings. They were down 4-0 after three innings, 7-0 after the top of the fourth. Eight of the first nine Vineyarders had struck out. They had no hits.
It all changed in an instant. Occasionally in sports we encounter that instant metamorphosis, a change that shows us the power of leadership and collective will. We don’t quite understand how it happens but, like the 2004 Red Sox or the 2012 Vineyarder Island Cup win, the phenomenon seems to be related to character and chemistry.
Specifically, what happened on Monday was that Vineyarder shortstop Emily Turney led off the bottom of the fourth inning by absolutely hammering a line drive to deep left-center field into a crosswind. The Dolphin outfielders turned and ran for the fence to track down an uncatchable ball that appeared to have a chance to leave the yard.
That was remarkable, because the Vineyarder softball team plays at Vineyard Baseball Park (a.k.a. the Shark Tank), a baseball field with fences more than 300 feet from home plate. Softball field fences are typically 190 feet from the plate down the lines, 220 feet to centerfield.
Emily, on second base with a double, stole third and scored on a short passed ball. Ms. Turney, a junior, was the best player on the field Monday. Her hit galvanized Vineyarder bats for the remainder of the game. No more strikeouts, balls sprayed around the field, sometimes for hits, sometimes not, but the Vineyarders became dangerous, competitive hitters.
Mariah Duarte, Julia Bettencourt, Emma Bunker, Julia Sauter, and others from seniors like Amanda Fielding to freshman Baylee Francis, made a game of it with their gloves and bats. They would score again on another double by Emily Turney and a groundout by Sarah Felix. The game’s final out would come with Vineyarders on second and third.
Vineyarder Coach Don Herman and his players have an equanimity about their game that is refreshing. That’s an important perspective to have when you compete in the Eastern Athletic Conference (EAC), the iron of high school softball in eastern Massachusetts. The Vineyarders are (gulp) 1-55 in EAC play since joining the league in 2009.
“We’re young, only two seniors. We’ve got some good young players to build on for next year. We saw some good, some bad, and some ugly out there today. I really enjoyed the good,” Mr. Herman said with a smile.