FITCHBURG – The Ayer-Shirley Regional girls’ softball team climbed above the .500 mark for the first time this season on Wednesday when it picked up a 2-1 road win over St. Bernard’s at the St. Bernard’s Activity Center.
The Panthers have now won three straight games and sit at 4-3 on the season. Ayer-Shirley will continue its current four-game road trip on Monday afternoon when it travels to Stedman Field to take on the host Wildcats of Gardner High School.
Ayer-Shirley head coach Mitch Magnette praised his team following Wednesday’s win.
“Very proud of the girls playing in tough, cold conditions,” said Magnette. “They never give up and they always go for it. Both teams had really good pitching today.”
As for the Bernardians, they fall to 3-4 with the loss. St. Bernard’s was playing its second game in two days on Wednesday. The Bernardians defeated visiting Murdock on Tuesday afternoon.
Picking up the win in the circle for Ayer-Shirley on Wednesday was Devin Delyani in relief. Delyani pitched the final five innings and kept the Bernardians off the scoreboard while only surrendering one hit. Mackenzie Cooley pitched the first two innings for Ayer-Shirley before giving way to Delyani. The two combined to strike out seven hitters on Wednesday afternoon.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the top of the seventh inning, Ayer-Shirley’s Maddie Koutsoufis came through in the clutch when she delivered a two-out RBI single to right field that plated Gabby Sweeney, who walked earlier in the inning.
“Maddie has done a really nice job for us, she played in our game against Murdock and she’s really still learning,” said Magnette. “She came up in a big spot and hit the ball hard. We’re really proud of her.”
Prior to Koutsoufis and her heroics, the Panthers were without a hit through six plus innings. The Panthers had five baserunners through the first six inning via two walks, a hit batter and a pair of St. Bernard’s errors.
The Bernardians struck first in this one as it scored its only run of the game in the home half of the first inning to grab a 1-0 lead after one complete inning.
The Panthers answered with a single run in the top of the third inning. Delyani kicked things off by reaching on an error by the third baseman. Delyani advanced to second on a passed ball before stealing third base. Delyani raced home on a wild pitch from Bernardians pitcher Brennah McDonald to level the score at 1-1.
Through seven games, Magnette likes what he’s seen from his team as the Panthers push to qualify for the Massachusetts Division 5 Tournament in June.
“We have five seniors on this team. This is a great group of kids. They play and they keep things loose, which is great,” said Magnette. “We have a good mix of talent from our seniors all the way down to our juniors, sophomores and freshmen.
The 2022 edition of the Panthers finished the season with a 7-11 overall record.