By Conor Walsh
---- — GLOUCESTER — At this point in the season, the Gloucester softball team is beginning to understand that its opponents are going to be aggressive.
With a very young roster — five freshmen suited up for the Fishermen yesterday — it only makes sense for opposing teams to push the Fishermen into making mistakes.
Salem followed that gameplan when the Witches came to Gloucester’s Burnham Field yesterday.
While the Witches didn’t hit Gloucester starting pitcher Karina Keenan particularly hard, the baserunners they got were relentless and their aggressiveness paid dividends.
Of the six runners that crossed the plate for Salem, five swiped bags during their trip around the bases. In total, the Witches stole 11 bases, and with pitcher Abrielle Stevens keeping the Gloucester offense from getting much going, Salem cruised to a 6-2 victory.
“They were really aggressive,” Gloucester coach John Nicastro added. “Every team in the conference knows we have a lot of freshmen, so they’re aggressive on us. Their aggressiveness definitely earned extra bases and earned extra runs, no doubt about it.”
“That’s the name of our game, to be aggressive,” Salem coach Dan Bertone said. “I’ve got a little bit of speed, especially at the top of the order, so if we can take advantage of it that’s what we’re going to do.”
It didn’t take long for Salem to establish its aggressive style. Speedy shortstop Desiree Martin led off the top of the first inning with a base hit bunt and proceeded to swipe second and third base.
Martin later scored on a groundout to give the Witches the lead — a lead they’d never surrender.
The Witches steadily piled it on from that point on, plating two in the second, one in the fourth and two in the sixth to keep any Fishermen comeback hopes at bay.
And when it did look as though Gloucester (1-5) might climb back into the game after Tess Benson and Liv Legendre scored the team’s only two runs in the bottom of the third, Stevens was there to slam the door.
Gloucester had just one hit — a Lacy Allen single in the seventh — after that two-run inning, and as her teammates continued to extend the lead Stevens only got stronger, surrendering just four hits on the day while striking out four.
“The momentum definitely started to swing a little bit,” Nicastro lamented, “but then they got a couple of people on base and pressed us again and got those runs back and just took back the momentum.”
Martin led the way for the Witches, going 3-for-5 with two runs scored and wreaking havoc on the base paths with five stolen bases. Jojo Coleman also came up huge for the Witches (3-5), going 2-for-4 and knocking in three runs.
Stevens helped her own cause with a two-hit day at the plate.
For Gloucester, Benson was 1-for-3 with a run and a stolen base while providing some impressive defense behind the plate. Legendre, Sophie Black and Allen added the team’s other three hits.
“We’re now 3-5, and a lot of our games, we’ve gotten the lead early on,” Bertone said. “But we’ve been making a lot of mistakes and losing that lead and losing that game, but today, I think we only made one error and played great defensively and took advantage of our opportunities offensively and came out on the winning side.”