by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 6-5-2013
NEWPORT — Though the final score of Thursday afternoon’s game may not have reflected it, It was a special moment for the North Country Falcons’ lone senior Anna Bingham. The Falcons (3-11) faced the visiting Essex Hornets (15-0) in North Country’s final home game. Going up against the unbeaten Hornets team would not be an easy task.
Wearing her familiar number five jersey, Bingham took the field in her regular spot as the Falcons’ starting short stop. On a day when everything seemed to be falling the Hornets’ way, Bingham would bring out a little magic of her own.
“She just wanted something she could hit,” Coach Leslie Dunn said after the game. “Her goal for the season was to hit five home runs — the same as her number. She didn’t think she would get the opportunity.”
Teams that have faced Bingham over the years have learned to fear her potent bat, Coach Dunn explained. Four years of exposure to the tough competition of Division I softball has taken away Bingham’s ability to hide in the background. She was a known commodity and that commodity terrorized opposing pitchers.
Bingham drew walks in each of her first two at-bats against the Hornets’ Ali Rutz. It wasn’t until the Essex had built up a 12-1 lead and the hard-throwing Ashley Gehsmann took the mound in the top of the fifth that Bingham finally saw pitches she could hit.
Bingham parked that ball over the left field fence for her fifth home run of the season.
“It felt great,” Bingham said after the game. “It was awesome. I really wanted to hit my fifth home run and to do it in our last home game on senior day was really great.”
Bingham is the only player who definitely will not return next season. Her presence will be missed. Her drive and intensity encouraged and inspired her teammates, Coach Dunn said.
“When she’s out there, diving for the ball and giving everything she has, the other girls see that and know that’s what’s expected,” Coach Dunn said. “That’s how we play. We do what we need to do to get the outs.”
Fortunately, the Falcons will not find themselves entirely without Bingham’s assistance in 2014. Bingham said she hopes to come back and serve as an assistant to help guide the team in the coming year.
“I’d like to come back and help out,” she said.
The Falcons certainly have talent carrying into next season. Thursday’s loss was less an issue of defensive lapses or failures by North Country as it was exceptional contact hitting by Essex. Falcon starter Taylor Blake held the Hornets scoreless through the first three innings despite a bases-loaded jam in the opening frame. Indeed, an exceptional double play involving a fly ball out to Mikaella Doran in right followed by a bullet throw and tag at the plate by catcher Tori Kinney prevented Essex from jumping out to an early lead.
In the fourth inning, however, the Hornets finally caught up to Blake. Seeing eye singles and hard chops up the third base line kept the Hornets moving along the base paths. By the time the dust cleared, the Hornets were up 9-0. The Falcons responded with a rally of sorts as Brittany Verge reached on a lead-off walk. Doran’s fielder’s choice caught Verge at second before Doran moved to second on a stolen base. Maddie Mosher’s single allowed Doran to score from second to break up Essex’s shutout bid.
Rebecca Murray would carry the Falcons through the next two innings, surrendering three more runs even as Bingham’s homer cut the home team’s deficit. After a rough couple of innings, a scoreless sixth was just what the Falcons needed to regroup and refresh. The Hornets, however, were not quite finished yet.
Essex would plate three more runs in the top of the seventh before Mosher would step in and close out the game with Essex ahead 15-2. Despite the long odds, the Falcons were not down and out. Bingham’s homer had revived the team visibly. Mosher would start North Country off with a double. A sacrifice hit by Missy Morse advanced Mosher to third putting her one hit or one deep fly ball away from home plate. Kinney would respond with a single that brought home Mosher and cut the Hornets’ lead to 15-3.
Bingham was next to take the plate with one on and one out. She would again see a single hittable pitch and drive the ball to the left field wall. It seemed possible that Bingham would not only achieve her goal of homering five times but possibly even exceed it. Unfortunately Hornet Hillary Danis chased it down and made a running catch at the fence. Murray would pop out for the third and final out as the curtain closed on the Falcons’ home season.
contact Richard Creaser at [email protected]