With the Northeastern Conference softball season completed and only out of conference games remaining, Gloucester is the one team standing tall above the rest.
One day after clinching at least a share of the NEC North crown with a nail-biting win over rival Danvers, the Fishermen have now earned the conference title all to themselves with a 10-1 drubbing of Swampscott at Gloucester High School.
Gloucester improves to 13-3(11-3 NEC) with the win and has now won four in a row while winning a second straight conference championship.
"There aren't enough good things to say about this group," head coach John Nicastro said. "It's one thing to have the talent, it's another thing to live up to it. Especially in this conference. Nobody is going to lay down for you, everyone is competitive."
"It starts with our seniors, this was the class that really took it to the next level brought consistency we haven't seen before."
Gloucester did most of its damage in the third inning, where it sent 12 batters to the plate and scored eight times on six hits, two errors, a walk, a hit batsmen and a fielder's choice. Ella Marshall, Rachel Rallo, Jemima Grow, Jenna Hoofnagle and Natalie Aiello delivered RBI hits in the frame, which helped the team open up an 8-0 lead.
That was more than enough support for pitcher Sydney McKay, who allowed an unearned run and scattered five hits while striking out 15 for the win.
"They took care of business," Nicastro said. "Sydney did what she does, we executed some small ball and got some timely hitting. That's a team that can be dangerous if you let them hang around, they have some of the most talented players in the conference even if they don't have the best record. Luckily we didn't let them hang around and made the most of our chances."
Hoofnagle and Haily Shea each drove in a run with a base hit in the sixth to account for the other two Gloucester runs.
Hoofnagle and Marshall were the lone Fishermen with two-hits, Tracy Wood and Liz Schuster both scored twice.
Gloucester now has four games remaining in the regular season and is back in action this weekend when it hosts the BankGloucester Holiday Tournament. The team will open up on Saturday against Ipswich (3 p.m.) and will take on either Hamilton-Wenham or Arlington in the second round on Sunday (3 or 5:30 p.m.).
The Fishermen finish up the regular season with games against Bishop Fenwick and Lynn Classical next Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
"That rainout against Lynn Classical could work to our advantage," Nicastro said. "They're a good team and that's the type of team you want to play heading into the tournament."