By Conor Walsh
---- — ROCKPORT — The injury bug can derail a season in a hurry, especially for a team representing a small school.
The Rockport softball team is currently living through such a situation, and on Friday, the Vikings were without pitcher Jessica Collins and first baseman Kayla Parisi — both middle-of-the-order bats, too — for the second straight game.
It didn’t matter, though, when Pentucket took on the Vikings at Rockport High School. The Vikings took advantage of a sloppy first inning by the Sachems, scraped out the eventual game-winning run in the bottom of the fifth inning and pitcher Hannah Lorden did the rest as the Vikings pulled out a 3-2 win.
With the win, the Vikings (4-5) inched back toward the .500 mark as they approach the season’s midpoint.
“Right now, we’re out a couple of girls, so with that we’ve had a lot of changes this past week,” said Rockport coach Diane Parisi. “I keep telling them all the time that they’re softball players and they’re athletes. They should be able to adjust depending on the situation, and they’ve absolutely done that and risen to the occasion.”
With the struggling Sachems (2-9) in town, yesterday’s was an important win for the Vikings as they continue their swing through the Cape Ann League Large portion of their schedule.
Early on, though, it was anyone’s game. After Pentucket third baseman Kassidy Kennefick led off the game with a double down the left field line and later scored to give Pentucket the early lead, the Sachems had made it clear they wouldn’t be an easy out.
Their starting pitcher, however, gave the Vikings some life. First-inning control problems and defensive struggles gave the Vikings two charity runs early on — the Sachems walked four and committed an error in the first —before they settled down. Rockport got those two runs without a hit in the frame.
From there, the game was a defensive struggle.
Lorden, who’s transitioned seamlessly from shortstop to the mound in Collins’ absence, settled in nicely and prevented Pentucket from piling up any big innings.
The Sachems did tie the game up in the top of the third with triples from Kennefick (2-for-4, 2B, 3B, 2R) and Tyler Feeney, but Lorden successfully held them there.
Meanwhile, Pentucket relief pitcher Carly Desjardins, who entered the game with two outs in the first inning, was downright dominant. She allowed just three hits in 5 1/3 innings — two bunt singles and an infield hit — and piled up eight strikeouts in an impressive relief outing. She even fanned five consecutive Rockport batters in a stretch spanning from the third inning to the fifth inning.
The Vikings, however, found a way to get the run that they needed despite their anemic offense on the day.
After Meghan Tupper reached on a nice bunt single with one out in the frame, she switched spots with catcher Mollie Watson, who reached on a fielder’s choice as Tupper was crossed out.
With two outs, Watson proceeded to steal second base and reach third on a wild pitch, eventually scoring on an infield hit by Emily Faulds — who notched Rockport’s only two RBI.
And just like that, the Vikings were in the driver’s seat.
Watson cut down the only Pentucket runner to reach base from that point with a nice throw on a steal attempt and Lorden retired the final five batters she faced to give the Vikings a quality, scrappy win.
“Hannah’s got the ball now on the mound and obviously she’s doing her job and doing it very well,” Parisi said. “They’re a good, solid team, it’s just going to be one of those things where they need to battle from beginning to end, which they did again today.”
Yesterday marked the Vikings’ second game since the injuries to Collins and Parisi. They dropped a tough 5-2 decision to Masconomet on Wednesday, but led 2-0 early and stayed with one of the CAL’s frontrunners.
Collins, her coach said, is likely done for the season with a leg injury, while Parisi is expected to return late next week.