Tewksbury High players celebrate at Martin Field in Lowell after defeating Merrimack Valley Conference rival Dracut, 4-1, to collect the program’s
Tewksbury High players celebrate at Martin Field in Lowell after defeating Merrimack Valley Conference rival Dracut, 4-1, to collect the program's first-ever Division 2 North softball championship. Tewksbury improved to 18-5 after its fourth tournament victory. SUN/DAVID H. BROW

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LOWELL -- Coach Leo DiRocco saw only one weakness in his young team on Sunday as it made Tewksbury High softball history.

"See, they don't even know how to celebrate," DiRocco joked.

Nearby, his Tewksbury players showed relative restraint while smiling and posing with the program's first-ever Division 2 North championship trophy.

"We'll work on it," added DiRocco, smiling. "Give us another chance."

This young, humble and irrepressible team's next chance comes Wednesday night in the Division 2 state semifinal in Taunton versus the winner of Monday's South final between Case and Bellingham.

Shannon Ramirez pitched a strong game in defeat for Dracut High.	SUN/DAVID H. BROWSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
Shannon Ramirez pitched a strong game in defeat for Dracut High. SUN/DAVID H. BROW

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

On Sunday at Martin Field, No. 6 seed Tewksbury did all its scoring after two were out in the third inning and defeated No. 9 Dracut, 4-1, abruptly reversing Tewksbury's history of sectional-final heartbreak.

DiRocco, in his 25th season as Tewksbury's coach, is not sure about the exact number of times his teams fell in sectional finals. Maybe five times, he guessed. Still fresh in his mind when the hurdle was finally cleared on Sunday was the tearful good-bye to a senior-laden team after a 6-5 loss to Burlington in last year's sectional final.

"We lost a tough one, and we started breaking down (emotionally) because we saw the seniors leaving," remembered DiRocco.


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"Seeing (those seniors) leave was hard," agreed senior shortstop Brooke Hardy, who a year later drove in the tying run on Sunday with a third-inning single and later hit a triple. "Coming back and winning this time around is an amazing feeling. We made history."

Hardy, a Jacksonville University-bound shortstop with indescribable range, is one of only two seniors on this Tewksbury team. The other is senior pitcher Shannon McLaughlin, whom Dracut coach George Roy called "the toughest pitcher in the (Merrimack Valley Conference).

Dracut catcher Kaylee Kacavas tags out Tewksbury runner Adrianna Favreau during a close play in the sixth inning.	SUN/DAVID H. BROWSun staff photos can be
Dracut catcher Kaylee Kacavas tags out Tewksbury runner Adrianna Favreau during a close play in the sixth inning. SUN/DAVID H. BROW

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
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Tewksbury has allowed two runs in its four tournament games. And Dracut's run on Sunday is still open to debate. With Dracut's Kaylee Kacavas on third with two outs in the second, a hustling Madison Ryan maybe beat out a grounder to first to give the Middies a 1-0 lead. (The umpires huddled and ruled she did.)

Some Tewksbury fans growled at the umpires. Tewksbury players were unfazed.

"We knew we were going to score," said Hardy. "It was just a matter of time."

Dracut senior pitcher Shannon Ramirez set down the first eight Tewksbury batters. But Tewksbury sophomore Kirsten Dick hit a two-out triple down the left-field line in the bottom of the third to ignite the Lady Redmen. Their time had come.

Tewksbury’s Shannon McLaughlin has only allowed two runs in four state  tournament games.	SUN/DAVID H. BROWSun staff photos can be ordered by
Tewksbury's Shannon McLaughlin has only allowed two runs in four state tournament games. SUN/DAVID H. BROW

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

Hardy ripped the very next pitch to right field to tie the game.

Freshman Marissa Doherty followed with a single. McLaughlin then walked. Then so did junior Erin Walsh with the bases loaded, scoring the go-ahead run.

Freshman Adrianna Favreau, who in the sixth inning would blast a triple off the top of the center-field fence (above the 235 sign), in the third merely blooped a two-run single to left center to make it 4-1.

"It wasn't the hit I hoped for," said Favreau, smiling. "But it fell in. And we got two out of it."

"It happened so fast, all with two outs," said Dracut coach Roy. "They're a tough team. But we knew that. We knew it was going to be a battle."

McLaughlin over seven innings allowed one run on six hits. She walked two and struck out three.

Dracut (15-8) and Tewksbury (18-6) split two games during the Merrimack Valley Conference season. Dracut, Chelmsford and Methuen wound up sharing the MVC Division 1 title. Tewksbury finished one game back.

But as every fan of every sport knows, the playoffs are a different animal.

"We're definitely not done yet," said Hardy.

Follow David Pevear on Twitter and Tout @merganser10