The Manchester Essex softball team ran into a juggernaut on Saturday in the Division 3 North First Round.
The Hornets, No. 17 in Division 3 North, traveled to the No. 1 seed, Austin Prep, and while they did not play poorly, the Cougars just had too much talent in a 12-1 win.
With the loss, the Hornets finish up the season at 12-10.
"(Austin Prep) was just so solid in every phase with a ton of talent," Manchester Essex head coach Frank Sarro said. "We had eight hits but their catcher was just so talented that you just couldn't risk taking an extra base on her, they put on a defensive show. It was a good experience for the team, which had an incredible season."
The 2019 season was the best season for Manchester Essex softball in well over a decade. Making their second straight appearance in the state tournament, the Hornets won their first postseason game in over a decade, 3-1 over No. 16 Greater Lowell in the Division 3 North First Round last Thursday.
"It was really great for the team to get that tournament win, and against a quality opponent too," Sarro said. "They really bought into what we were trying to do this season. That win might have been the high point."
The Hornets got off to a bit of a slow start with a 3-8 record through 11 games, but with the biggest challenges behind them, they made a big turnaround in the second half.
Before the loss to Austin Prep, Manchester Essex put together a 9-1 record through the previous 10 games, including a double headers weep of Hamilton-Wenham and Pentucket last month that Sarro says helped the turnaround.
Sarro was quick to credit the mix of young and veteran talent on his team.
Led by four All-Star performers in seniors Molly Field and Belle Graves and juniors Claire Gendron and Sydney Levasseur along with four eighth graders that contributed, the Hornets were able to fight through a tough schedule to reach the postseason.
"We had a ton of leadership from our star players," Sarro said. "Sydney and Claire turned into such a pitcher-catcher combo. At the end of the season I had so much trust in them to call their own game, and it really worked for us. I'm just so proud of all of them, they worked hard all year to get better and earned that tournament spot."