WORCESTER-- The tone of the game was set very early in Saturday's Division 2 State Softball Championship.
Central Mass. champion Hudson was able to put the pressure on Eastern Mass. champion Gloucester before it even came to bat with a run in the top of the first inning. With the Fishermen playing from behind before coming up to bat, they could never catch up against Hudson pitcher Sophia Togneri in a 4-1 loss at Worcester State University.
The win sent Hudson (22-3) to the Division 2 State Title. Gloucester, on the other hand, finishes up at 21-4 after putting together the most successful season in program history.
"(Hudson) got off to a great start and and put the pressure on us. We just weren't able to put anything together early," said Gloucester head coach John Nicastro. "They did more than us and were the better team tonight, they deserved to win.
"But this was an incredible season. The girls deserved to be in this game and we were a few plays away from making it a game."
Togneri helped out her own cause as her RBI double scored the speedy Emily White, who reached base and scored three times, from first to give Hudson 1-0 lead just three batters into the game.
"Our philosophy all postseason has been to set the tone early," Hudson head coach Laura Bowen said. "That first run was really huge for us. When you're down 1-0 you're obviously putting a lot more pressure on yourself."
Togneri, who allowed only two runs in five state tournament games, was dominant and made sure Gloucester never threatened to take the lead. She allowed only one run, which came in the seventh inning, on four hits and seven strikeouts.
The senior lefty struck out the first three batters of the game, and while Gloucester started to get its timing down a little, she prevented solid contact until the final inning.
The Fishermen had only one baserunner in the first four innings, a Maddie Machado double, but she was stranded at second base.
Machado, who had two of Gloucester's four hits, singled and got to third in the fifth inning, but Togneri got a strikeout to get out of the jam.
Gloucester put the leadoff batter on base for the first time in the sixth on a walk, but two strikeouts and a caught stealing followed to end the threat.
"She's a great pitcher and she was hitting her spots," Nicastro said. "We were ready, we had the pitching machine up real high this week at practice but sometimes the machine doesn't do justice when you're preparing for a pitcher like that."
"She's had a tremendous postseason and she had that fight in her eyes tonight," Bowen said. "She had 64 strikeouts in the postseason, some don't get that in an entire season."
Hudson extended its lead to 3-0 with two unearned runs in the third. Freshman Abbey Nuzech did the damage with a two RBI single scoring Natalie Bishop, who reached on an error, and White, who singled. White came around to score again in the fifth inning to make it 4-0 after reaching on a single and stealing second before Nuzech doubled to deep left.
Gloucester pitcher Sydney McKay was also strong as she allowed two earned runs on nine hits with eight strikeouts, keeping Gloucester in the game.
Gloucester finally got to Togneri in the seventh when Tracy Wood doubled to the gap in left center to lead off the frame. Liz Schuster followed and crushed a line drive up the middle, but Togneri was just able to get a piece of it with her glove, enough to deflect it right to Bishop at shortstop, who threw to first and got the out on a very close play. Jenna Hoofnagle followed with a RBI single to score Wood and cut the deficit to 4-1. Machado was up next and again hit the ball hard with a line drive to center that hung up just long enough for Maggie Baker, who was initially breaking in for the ball, to make the catch above her head.
"It's a game of inches and a couple more inches there we could have really put something together in the seventh," Nicastro said. "Those were great swings. Our team doesn't give up and showed it tonight."
Togneri got a strikeout to finish off the game one batter later.
Nicastro was quick to credit his team for the season it had, which saw it win the Northeastern Conference North for the second season in a row, win Division 2 North and Eastern Mass. for the first time in program history and become the first GHS girls team to play in a State Championship Game.
The Fishermen put together win streaks of nine and 12 games this season, while McKay set the program's all time wins record, which now stands at 58.
"This was such a fun group to coach and they're all great kids," Nicastro said. "It starts with our leadership. We have some great younger players on this team but our leaders carried us and that's going to be tough to replicate. It was a great run. We got to play some great programs and we won some memorable games. I couldn't be prouder of the season we had."
Division 2 State Championship Game
Hudson 4, Gloucester 1
at Rockwood Park, Worcester
Hudson 102 010 0| 4
Gloucester 000 000 1| 1
H: Bishop, SS, 3-1-0; White, RF, 3-3-2; Togneri, P, 4-0-2; Nezuch, LF, 4-0-2; Baker, CF, 4-0-1; Korowski, 1B, 4-0-0; Kiley, 3B, 3-0-2; Cassidy, C, 3-0-0; Safranski, 2B, 2-0-0. Totals: 30-4-9.
G: Thibodeau, LF, 3-0-0; Marshall, SS, 3-0-0; Wood, CF, 3-1-1; Schuster, C, 3-0-0; Hoofnagle, DH, 3-0-1; Machado, 1B, 3-0-2; Aiello, 2B, 2-0-0; Grow, RF, 2-0-0; McKay, P, 1-0-0. Totals 23-1-4.
RBI: H, Nezuch 3, Togneri; G, Hoofnagle.
WP, Togneri; LP, McKay.
Records: H, 22-3; G, 21-4.