The Norwood High softball team entered Natick on Wednesday with a share of the Bay State Conference Herget title already in its back pocket. The Mustangs left leaving no doubt as to who is the division’s best team.
A pair of big innings powered another solid pitching performance from senior Jill Shepherd as Norwood sewed up the outright crown with a 7-1 victory over the second-place Redhawks. The Mustangs improved to 14-3 overall and 12-2 in the BSC, earning them a fourth Herget championship in the last five years after Dedham ended their three-year run at the top last spring.
"It means a lot for us because people had their doubts about us," said Norwood senior captain Jessie Gorman of the crown. "To get it back show how much we have improved, how much we wanted and how much effort has gone into it."
Gorman helped get the Mustangs started in the first inning, belting a two-run double to the opposite field in right, then coming home on a Kelly Duggan groundout for a quick 3-0 lead for Norwood.
Natick, which edged the Mustangs 5-4 in nine innings in the first meeting, threatened to get the runs back in the bottom half, loading the bases with one out on a pair of walk and a single. But shortstop Makenna Lane reacted perfectly to her right to snare a on a line drive off the bat of Lauren Crowley and calmly flipped to third for an inning-ending double play.
Norwood padded the lead with a four-run fourth. Erin Garczynski leadoff with a double, the second of her three hits and the day, and scored on an RBI single from Lane. Duggan kept the inning going with a two-out single, and the Mustangs tacked on three more runs on a throwing error, a run-scoring triple to deep center by Shepherd and an RBI single from Flynn to make it 7-0.
"The kids deserve it, they have worked hard," said Norwood coach Carol Savino. "We were a good team a year ago, we just ran into some tough luck with injuries. If we stay healthy from this point forward, we could do some damage."
Natick’s only run came in a bizarre sequence in the fourth. With Redhawks on first and second and one out, batter Meghan Pini and both baserunners though ball three was four and started trotting to the next base. Pini was sent back to the plate but Norwood realized a split second too late to get the runner at third, and both moved up.