(Written, shot, edited and narrated for Somerville Patch)
When the home team in a high school softball game goes up by 15 runs in the bottom of the fifth, the “Run Ahead Rule” – alternately called the “mercy rule” or “slaughter rule” – automatically ends the game.
Thursday afternoon at Tufts Park in Medford, that’s exactly what happened. Medford High pinch-hitter Jackie Smock drove in two with a single in the bottom of the fifth, automatically ending their game against visiting Somerville High.
The Mustangs beat the Highlanders, 21-6.
The Highlanders led 5-3 after one inning, but Medford starting pitcher Kristina Bove limited Somerville to just one base-runner through the second, third and fourth innings. The Medford offense scored 15 runs in those same three innings, highlighted by an 8-run bottom of the second.
Somerville starting pitcher Verna Estes walked the first two Medford batters in the second – her fourth and fifth walks in one-plus innings of work – and was replaced by junior Jackie Homsi.
Both of Estes’ walked-batters scored on consecutive pitches in the dirt by Homsi that got away from catcher and captain Ashley Auciello, tying the game 5-5. Following two more walks, Bove singled down the first-base line, just past sophomore Megan O’Brien, to drive in two more.
Medford scored four more in the bottom of the second on three consecutive RBI singles and an RBI groundout, and the inning ended with the Mustangs up 11-5.
Consecutive extra-base hits in the third increased the Mustang’s lead to eight, and the team scored five more in the bottom of the fourth. Bove added another two-run single, finishing the game 3-3 with four runs and four RBIs.
The Highlanders got one run back in the top of the fifth, with senior shortstop and captain Kelsey Garrity doubling off replacement Medford pitcher Rayann Staude, and Auciello singling to drive her in. But an RBI single by Medford left fielder Sarah Donnelly – her sixth RBI in a 4-5 game – put the Mustangs up 19-5, setting up Smock’s two-run single.
The Highlanders took a 5-0 lead in the first. Auciello led off with a walk, stole two bases and came home on a ground out to first by third basemen Maegan Auciello.
The Highlanders added two when Medford shortstop Jackie Pallechia dropped a pop fly by junior Mattie Barber-Bockelman. Second baseman Brianna Dell’Isola drove in two more with a single to center field, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
Estes started the bottom of the first with a strikeout, then walked the bases loaded. The Mustangs sacrificed in one run, then scored two more when Donnelly hit a pop fly just beyond Garrity’s reach.
There was little the Highlanders could have done to contain the Mustangs’ hitting. All of Medford’s hits were to open spaces on the field, and the Highlanders defense did not throw away any easy outs.
However, they sometimes looked lackadaisical in the field, not realizing quickly enough when a Medford runner was trying to steal or take an extra base on a walk. Balls weren’t always run in or cut off fast enough. While this likely did not mean the difference between victory and defeat – Medford averages over 10 runs a game – it might have kept the score slightly closer.
Head coach Bill MacDonald agreed that this carefree attitude and lack of effort are major concerns on this Somerville team.
“This team does have a tendency to be non-chalant about a lot of things,” MacDonald said. “It’s something we’ve been battling for a long time now, trying to get them to be more urgent about plays.”
MacDonald said he would also like to see the Highlanders go after fly balls harder. He said that defense and unearned runs – which have accounted for half the total runs scored against the Highlanders this season – was not as big an issue Thursday after working on infield defense the day before.
He also liked how his team hit better in the middle of the lineup and maintained a positive attitude in the face of a large deficit.
Said MacDonald, “The good thing about being with this team, this particular group of girls, is even though they’re losing a lot, they like each other, and they like coming to the ballpark.”