copyright the Chronicle July 23, 2014
by David Dudley
NEWPORT — In a thriller, team Accura Printing edged out defending champs, the Paquette Builders, to win the ASA (Amateur Softball Association) softball championship Sunday.
Though Paquette jumped out to a huge lead, scoring eight runs through the first four innings of play, they went scoreless through the four innings that followed.
The second inning was an especially long one for Accura, led by coach Lori Shepard, as they watched the Paquette Builders build an intimidating early lead. But Accura didn’t lose their composure, and they hung in there to mount an admirable comeback.
“Paquette started pounding the ball,” said Ms. Shepard. “Their bats were on fire right out of the gate.”
In the fourth inning, Accura caught fire as Amanda Thompson loaded the bases. Jen Estevil scored on an error to second base, and Angela Wheatley hit an RBI single.
This is not the first time the two teams have met. They played in the finals last year, as well. Ms. Shepard noted how well the teams know one another.
“We could have just folded,” Ms. Shepard said. “I’ve been on teams like that. You go down that many runs, and it’s over.”
Paquette sent three to bat, and looked on as each batter returned to the dugout empty handed.
Then, in the fifth inning, with runners on the corners, Estevil drove another run home on a ground ball.
“We could have folded. But instead, we just started chipping away,” Ms. Shepard said.
Wheatley sent a hard line drive to left field, as another run scored. Another run would have come in, were it not for a dead ball ruling.
Then, with two out, Karen Safford found the hole with another hard drive to left, to drive another home.
Going into the top of the sixth inning, the teams were deadlocked at eight. Accura went three up, and three down.
Abbey Lalime, who led Paquette’s charge, earlier in the game, finally got on base with a grounder up the middle. The next batter sent a screaming drive to left center, where the ball was caught.
Then Accura took their first lead of the game, as Wheatley sent another ball through the hole. Accura scored once more to clutch the title, 10-8.
Rhonda Howard, captain of the Paquette Builders, tried to keep her team’s spirits up.
“We lost by only three runs in these past two games, ladies. That’s not bad at all. In fact, it’s damn good,” Ms. Howard said, as the Paquette team prepared to shake hands with their opponents.
At game’s end, Lynn Ribolini, state commissioner of the ASA for the past 16 years, spoke about how competitive the tournament is.
“It’s especially competitive in the women’s division, at this level, “ she said. “They know that the third weekend in July is the state tournament. They plan for it. They train. They take time off from work. They come ready to play.”
“I was a member of the team up until a couple of years ago, and I’m just thankful they’ve kept me around,” Ms. Shepard said. “I shed a few tears. We’ve been playing for so long, and we’ve never won a championship. It sounds cliché, but I knew: This is our time.”
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