PELHAM — Senior centerfielder Chantal Roussel outdid herself in the bottom of the eighth inning yesterday afternoon.
With Pelham trailing 6-5 in its Division 3 quarterfinal matchup against Franklin, the Pythons had runners on second and third with one out and Roussel up at-bat against all-state pitcher Kelsey Bird.
She knew that, whatever happened, star freshman Sarah Ratcliffe was up next.
“Everything was running through my mind, but the main thing was that I wanted to hit the ball,” said Roussel, a four-year starter. “I knew if I got on base, Sarah would win it for us.”
Alas, Ratcliffe never got the chance to be the hero. Roussel lined a shot in the left-center gap, stopping at second with a double as Kelsey Grimard and Hannah Paitchel crossed the plate with the winning runs for the thrilling 7-6 victory.
That advances Pelham (13-4) to Wednesday’s 7 p.m. Division 3 semifinal matchup against unbeaten White Mountains at Plymouth State.
According to head coach Todd Lozeau, it was Roussel’s first double of the year. But he wasn’t surprised that she delivered.
“I have a lot of confidence in Chantal and there’s a reason she was moved to the No. 2 spot (in the order),” said Lozeau. “She’s been a great player for us all year, and a four-year starter ... she deserves this.”
It’s the first time that Pelham has advanced to the state semifinals since 1996.
“I can’t even put into words how big a thing this is for us,” said Roussel.
Said Lozeau: “I know it’s the most exciting win since I’ve been here (seven years). This is a resilient group. When they scored in the top of the eighth, it would have been easy to lay down.”
The Pythons showed their resiliency from the start when freshman Shannon Morin went to the circle to handle the pitching chores. Senior four-year starter Jordan Parece suffered a knee injury in the first-round victory over Raymond and is lost for the rest of the playoffs.