By Dave Dyer
---- — 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.
In contrast to Crucioli, who retired the side in order five times, Scionti was not quite as efficient. The Knights had at least one runner on base 10 times, but the Methuen senior bore down every time.
Six times with runners on base, Scionti ended the inning with a strikeout.
“I know I have to throw it harder (with runners on base),” said Scionti. “This was a tough game ... I haven’t pitched this long in a long time.”
Said Smith: “Chrissy is like that. She takes offense when batters get on base and she really focuses.”
For North Andover (1-2), in addition to Crucioli’s terrific performance, second baseman Danielle Wilson had two hits, Haley Kosheff had a double and shortstop Dahlia Decologero made a terrific jumping catch of a line drive that looked like it was headed for the gap for extra bases.
“We did a lot of good things but we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities,” said North Andover coach Caitlin Flanagan.
agateHed:Methuen 3, North Andover 0
agateText:Methuen (3): Littlefield cf 5-0-1, Lemire lf 5-0-1, Lefebre c 5-1-0, Blackwell 3b 5-1-2, Correia ss 5-0-1, Rader 2b 5-1-0, Potter 1b 3-0-0, McLaughlin 1b 2-0-0, Forgetta 2b 4-0-2, Cormier ph 1-0-0, Murphy rf 4-0-0, Scionti p 0-0-0. Totals 44-3-7
agateText:North Andover (0): Decologero ss 4-0-0, Crucioli p 5-0-0, Brown pr 0-0-0, Green c 5-0-1, Bramanti rf 3-0-0, Kosheff 1b 5-0-1, Alholm 3b 4-0-0, Wilson 2b 5-0-2, Mather dp 5-0-0, Lemerise lf 5-0-1, Coakley cf 0-0-0. Totals 41-0-4
agateText:RBI: Blackwell, Rader, Forgetta
agateText:WP: Scionti; LP: Crucioli
agateText:Methuen (3-0):0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 — 3
agateText:North Andover (1-2): 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0
12-inning duel Methuen's Chrissy Scionti -- 5-hitter, 15 strikeouts, 5 walks, 0 earned runs North Andover's Kim Crucioli -- 7-hitter, 16 strikeouts, 0 walks, 0 earned runs