It was only a holiday tournament, but Sunday's BankGloucester Holiday Softball Tournament final had a state tournament atmosphere on the diamond. That's because both finalists, Gloucester and Arlington, are state tournament bound seeds looking to pick up a key out of conference win to improve seeding.
In a back-and-forth contest, Gloucester was just able to hold off a seventh inning rally from the Spy Ponders, winning 6-5.
"That was a postseason type game," said Gloucester head coach John Nicastro, whose team improves to 15-3. "Arlington is a tournament team. We had the chance to open it up a little early but they made plays to keep themselves in the game like good teams do."
Gloucester, which was the away team because it was a holiday tournament game, despite the fact that it was playing at home, was in control through two innings, opening up a 4-0 lead. But Arlington started to chip away from there.
Arlington cut the lead to 4-1 in the third, and made it a one-run game with two more in the fourth on RBI singles from Caelan Doherty and Clara Murphy.
Gloucester was able to stretch that lead back to three with two more runs in the fifth. A base hit from Liz Schuster, who was named to the all tournament team, scored Tracy Wood, who singled. Schuster came in to score on a Jenna Hoofnagle bunt to make it 6-3.
"Coming back and putting those two runs on the board ended up being the difference," Nicastro said. "We had some clutch at bats when we needed them."
The Spy Ponders (12-5) would not go down quietly as they mounted a comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning. With two outs, Kayla Mayo and Casey Smith singled to bring the tying run to the plate in Claire Ewen, who doubled to left field scoring Mayo and Smith to cut the Gloucester lead to 6-5.
Ewen, however, stumbled a bit after a turn around second base and was thrown out going back to second base on a controversial call to end the game.
"That's a play we practice throwing behind the runner like that, and they executed it," Nicastro said.
Gloucester got on the board in the top of the first when Liz Schuster's sacrifice bunt scored Ella Marshall, who was hit by a pitch.
The Fishermen played some small ball to extend that lead with three more runs in the second. Sydney McKay bunted home Natalie Aiello, who walked, Jemima Grow bunted in Maddie Machado, who singled, and Riley Thibodeau bunted in Grow to give Gloucester a 4-0 lead after two.
McKay picked up the win, allowing four earned runs on nine hits against a pesky Arlington lineup that was difficult to put away, fouling off a lot of good pitches. She was named tournament MVP for back-to-back wins, including a shutout of Ipswich on Saturday in the first round. She also drove in a pair of runs at the plate over the two games.
"Sydney did what she does, crushed her spots and kept them off balance," Nicastro said. "They were a tough hitting team. They really battled and had some good at bats."
Gloucester finishes up the regular season with a pair of games this week at home against Bishop Fenwick on Wednesday (4 p.m.) and at Lynn Classical on Thursday (3:30 p.m.).
BankGloucester Holiday Tournament Finals
Gloucester 6, Arlington 5
at Gloucester High School
Gloucester 140 020 0| 6
Arlington 001 200 2| 5
G: Thibodeau, LF, 4-0-2; Marshall, SS, 3-1-0; Wood, CF, 4-1-2; Schuster, C, 3-1-1; Hoofnagle, DH, 4-0-0; Aiello, 2B, 1-1-0; Machado, 1B, 3-1-1; McKay, P, 2-0-0; Grow, RF, 3-1-0. Totals, 27-6-6.
A: Benoit, SS, 4-0-0; Mayo, LF, 4-1-1; Smith, 1B, 4-1-2; Ewan, CF, 4-0-2; Kelly, RF, 3-1-0; Doherty, C, 3-1-1; Toomey, 3B, 3-0-0; Murphy, 2B, 3-1-2; Hill, LF, 3-0-1. Totals, 31-5-9.
RBI: A, Ewan 2, Doherty, Toomey; G, Schuster 2, Thibodeau, Hoofnagle, McKay, Grow.
WP, McKay; LP, Swift.
Records: G, 15-3; A, 12-5.