NORTON — In recent years, the Norton High softball program never had any uncertainty in the pitching circle when the Lancers entered the MIAA South Sectionals.
Despite not having last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Kelly Nelson, for this year’s postseason run, the Lancers have a similar comfort level moving forward as Sofia Knopf has proven to be more than capable of shouldering the load.
The junior righthander allowed only three hits to No. 12 seed Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High Sunday as she propelled the fifth-seeded Lancers to a 2-1 victory over the Falcons in their Division 2 South Sectional first-round game.
It didn’t come easy for Norton, however. The Falcons had baesrunners on first and second with one out in the sixth, but Knopf got out of the jam by getting the next two batters to keep the Lancers with a one-run lead.
D-R then had the tying run in scoring position in the seventh before Knopf struck out her seventh batter of the game for the final out of the contest.
Norton (16-4) travels to No. 4 seed Falmouth on Monday in a Division 2 South quarterfinal at 4 p.m..
“I just really had to lock in and just look at my catcher’s glove,” Knopf said of her mindfulness in getting out of the late-inning threats. “You’re in that moment and nothing else matters but what you’re doing. So I just looked at my catcher’s glove and tried to hit it.”
Knopf retired the D-R side in order in each of the first three innings. D-R second baseman Andria Braga (two hits) broke up the no-hitter bid with a fourth-inning single and later scored on a whistling double by No. 3 batter Sadie Pratt. It was the lone run Knopf would allow.
The Lancers were limited to just five hits by D-R pitcher Eliana Raposo, who had one strikeout.
Norton’s Destiny McGrath delivered in the second inning. The sophomore shortstop roped a two-out, two-run double down the left field line to score teammates Erica Ransom and Knopf, who ran around from first base.
Ransom (two hits) led off the second inning with her first of two singles to left field. The Lancers had the leadoff batter get aboard on in the second, third and fourth innings, including Ransom twice. Their run-scoring output was hampered, however, by some Falcon defensive highlights.
Braga, playing at second, turned a double play in the second inning and later saved at least one run in the fourth. The Falcon senior climbed the ladder to rob McGrath on what would have been a line drive to the gap with runners at the corners.
D-R third baseman Margaret Saxon made a pair of good plays to keep the Lancers off the basepaths in the sixth as well. Saxon caught a blooper down the third-base line and ended the sixth with a second-effort assist while teammate Caitlin McCarthy made an over-the-shoulder catch on a foul ball for the second out of the inning.
“Their defense was phenominal,” Norton coach Wade Lizotte said of D-R. “They just didn’t give us anything. We really had to earn everything and when you’re earning stuff, it’s going to come down to that timely hit.”
Correia and Ransom each slapped two hits for the Lancers. Braga was the lone Falcon with multiple hits.
Lizotte is hoping the Lancers will add another page to their already-impressive book this season, which he admitted was extra special as the team came together with a chip on their shoulder.
“These guys were really just tired about hearing about that old group and what they’ve done,” Lizotte said. “They wanted to write their own story and so far it’s a pretty good story. I hope it continues.”