A Satisfying Year for Varsity Softball

Published in the June 4, 2008 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster


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Given that only one softball team can finish the playoffs undefeated, chances were good that the final game of Mike Allard's 32-year coaching career at Nashoba Regional would end in a loss. But what a gutsy loss it turned out to be.

Huge underdogs in Saturday's Central Mass division 1 quarterfinal matchup at 2nd-seeded Holy Name, the 10th-seeded Chieftains rallied from a 6-1 deficit and had the tying run on base with one out in the 7th before their luck ran out.

The Naps got the win, 8-6, to earn a spot in today's semifinal game at Worcester State College. But the 13-9 Chieftains made Allard's final game one he'll always remember with pride.

“Against a team that's 18-2 with one of the best pitchers in the area (Naps ace Lynne Halley), they fought back and have a lot to be proud of, ” Allard said. “They never gave up or got down. That's all you can ask for, that good attitude and character. It's easy to win, but where you see the true character in your team is when you're behind. I thought we responded well to that all year.”

Coming from behind was nothing new for the Chieftains, who had done so twice during a four-game winning streak dating back to their playoff-clinching 10th victory on May 20. In Thursday's 4-2 playoff win at St. Peter-Marian, they came back from a 2-1 deficit in the 4th inning to win 4-2. And in the May 20 win, the Nashoba nine scored five runs in the 6th inning to hand a tough Leominster team only its third loss of the season, 8-6.

“That was probably our biggest win of year up to that point,” Allard said.

Several Stow players were instrumental to the team's success this season. Senior tri-captain Jessica Ray set an example for younger players by hitting over .300 this season between stellar stints in the outfield.

“I think she's one of the premier outfielders in our league,” Allard said. “She can do it all, make a great catch, even throw a girl out at first from right field. We're going to miss her, obviously.”

With regular third baseman Rosie Manzo of Hudson reinventing herself as this season's staff ace, the hot corner was a question mark for the Chieftains in early April. That won't be the case next year, as junior Allison Wyand of Stow has made the position hers. Wyand chose to be the everyday third baseman for the junior varsity team last year rather than warm the bench for the varsity squad, and the extra reps paid off, both in the field and at the plate; Wyand had a number of big hits this season, none bigger than an inside-the-park home run on Saturday that brought the Chieftains to within 6-4.

“She's got a lot of physical skills that make her a great player,” Allard said. “She's been improving each game, to the point where she hit a home run off one of the best pitchers in Central Mass. She's going to be one of the best in the league next year.”

And then there's freshman Mary Temple, who just might be the heir apparent to Ray in the outfield. Though she played only a handful of games for the varsity squad this season, Temple made the most of her opportunities, twice scoring the Chieftains' winning run—on April 24 against North Middlesex in the annual Hudson tournament, and on May 22 in a 1-0 win over Westboro.

“I thought she made us a stronger team with her athletic ability,” Allard said. “She's very fast, runs well, hits the ball well. She's got the makings of a super player.”

Wyand and Temple will be back next season, but they'll have a new head coach. Allard, a German teacher at Nashoba, will retire at the end of the academic year and hang up his coaching cap as well, with more than 390 victories to his credit.

“It's been a very satisfying year, and I think the future looks pretty good too,” Allard said. “I won't be there, but it's nice to feel that the team will be continuing on a successful path.”

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239