NORTH ANDOVER — A precocious freshman and a gritty senior made the difference for Methuen yesterday afternoon in a classic pitching duel.
A heads-up play by freshman Kathleen Lefebre in the top of the 12th ignited a three-run rally and senior Chrissy Scionti did the rest in a 3-0 shutout victory over North Andover in the Knights’ first game in the Merrimack Valley Conference.
Scionti, who scattered five hits but gave up five walks while striking out 15, was at her best with runners on base. She had to be because North Andover counterpart Kim Crucioli was at least Scionti’s equal.
Crucioli gave up seven hits, but she struck out 16, didn’t walk a batter, didn’t allow a runner to get past second base until the 12th and didn’t give up an earned run.
“Crucioli pitched a great game and had us off balance all game,” said Methuen coach Jason Smith, whose club improved to 3-0. “We didn’t hit like we had been, but a lot of it was her. She deserves a lot of credit.”
The Knights’ senior certainly deserved a better fate, particularly in the 12th.
Lefebre led off with a little popup over first base. The first baseman, second baseman and right fielder all went for the ball, but it glanced off a glove into right field, whereupon Lefebre alertly scooted all the way to third base.
“That’s a heads-up play and a sign of a smart player,” said Smith. “I don’t know how many kids would have gotten to third on that.”
Kelly Blackwell responded with a soft liner over second that scored Lefebre and later came around on a fielder’s choice hit by Jess Rader. A two-out double by Kaileigh Forgetta scored Rader.
Forgetta struck out her first two times at-bat and was then lifted for a pinch-hitter. She came back with two straight hits.