AMHERST -- The Western Massachusetts Division II championship was a truly representative game for the Drury softball team.
The No. 8 Blue Devils started the year hot before cooling off at midseason before riding a stretch of torrid play into Saturday's final against No. 2 Hampshire. Drury still couldn't find the consistency it was searching for all season, giving up four runs in both the first and sixth innings of an 11-1 loss.
"The team settled down and then things fell apart," said Blue Devils coach Mary Ann Maroni. "I think that's the youth showing. This is a fantastic experience. You can't get the experience factor on the practice field that they have right here."
The trip to the University of Massachusetts' softball complex should prove invaluable for a green team, seeded eighth this year and led by sophomore pitcher Cat Record. She was going up against a team that had made the sectional final three years in a row and the Red Raiders (19-2) showed it right from the start. Hampshire jumped on Record, ripping off six straight hits -- mostly to shallow left -- in the first inning. Drury (15-7) was down 4-0 thanks to 10 Hampshire at-bats in the inning.
The Red Raiders scored four more in the sixth, sending all nine batters to the plate to put an exclamation point on the victory. Between those two bookends, the Blue Devils were solid. Record allowed just three runs on six hits in the middle five innings. Drury had a hit in each of the first five innings and cut the lead to three with a run in the fourth. The Blue Devils were robbed of a second run in the fifth when Red Raiders shortstop Savannah Waters made a outstanding throw across the diamond to end the inning and spoil an earlier triple from Laryssa LaPointe.
"We were hitting it," said Arianna Hilchey, who was 2 for 3 with a double. "But then we only got like once an inning. [We] weren't scoring. It just was a tough day."
Hilchey and company couldn't string together the hits the Red Raiders seemed to come up with easily. Maroni described most of the hits Record surrendered as impossible to defend. Many landed where fielders couldn't reach them, with Hampshire finding significant patches of green grass.
"We got out in front of the pitch a bit and pulled the ball," said Red Raiders coach Brian McGan. "Then [Record] settled down, started going away from us a little bit, kept us in check for a couple innings. But right off the rip I told them ‘Let's get aggressive and go after it.' Right in the beginning and we did."
It proved to be too much for the Blue Devils. For a team that ran both hot and cold, the playoff run that included wins over the first and fourth seeds couldn't go on forever.
"We had the hot bats yesterday and they had the hot bats today," Maroni said. "They scorched the ball some times."
Drury 000 100 0--1 5 3
Hamp. 400 124 x--11 14 0
Cat Record and Amber Iacuessa; Ashlee McGan and Bri Weltlich. 2B -- Hampshire 2 (Janelle Gorman); Drury 1 (Arianna Hilchey). 3B -- Hampshire 2 (Savannah Waters, Weltlich); Drury 1 (Laryssa LaPointe).