METHUEN — Methuen junior pitcher Jillian McCoy apparently doesn’t let go of unpleasant memories very quickly.
That is a good thing for the Rangers softball team, as she showed Sunday night in a Division 1 North tournament first round game at Burnham Road Field.
Back on May 5, Methuen lost a 4-0 Merrimack Valley Conference game to Andover, and that didn’t sit well with McCoy as she’s shown twice since then.
She beat Andover 7-1 in the Methuen Tournament on a four-hitter three weeks later, and was even more effective Sunday, hurling a 3-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory.
The triumph sends the Rangers (17-4) into Tuesday’s North quarterfinal at Newton North
So what is it about facing Andover, Jillian?
“I just get fired up because they beat us in that game,” said McCoy. “I wanted to get back at them.”
That could be but, says Methuen coach Jason Smith, McCoy’s superb pitching of late goes beyond Andover.
“She’s had a really strong second half of the season,” said Smith. “She’s gotten stronger as the season’s gone on. It’s different for her from last year when she shared the load. She knows it’s on her now and she’s embracing the moment.”
Pitching efficiently throughout seven innings, McCoy retired the side in order four times. Andover’s only serious scoring threat came in the seventh when Golden Warrior left fielder Juliana Barbaro led off with a triple to right field. But McCoy retired the next three batters without allowing a ball to get hit past her.
Andover pitcher Ashley Cocchiaro, meanwhile, was just as effective through four innings, only allowing one hit, a double by Cori Rizzo in the second. But things fell apart in the fifth for the Warriors.
Kerri Horan singled with one out, Steph Tardugno walked and, after a force play, Nyah Mazzone hit a two-run triple to right-center and then scored on a passed ball. Dana Littlefield followed with a single and pinch-runner Emily Spina then came around to score the final run on a pair of steals and an Andover mental error.
Those were more than enough for McCoy, who was right on target and also the recipient of some fine defensive plays. Tardugno made a diving grab and nice running catch in center field and Emma McAlpine made a brilliant stab of a ball smashed down the third base line.
“I have a lot of trust in my fielders,” said McCoy. “It makes my job easier.”
To her credit, Cocchiaro only gave up five hits and Andover (12-10) made the Rangers work for the win even without standout hitter Anna Zdunczyk, who recently tore her ACL and was unavailable.
Methuen’s Tuesday quarterfinal matchup at Newton North (18-3) is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.
Methuen 4, Andover 0
Division 1 North First Round
Andover (0): S. Gillette 3b 3-0-0, Folan cf 3-0-1, Pacy ss 3-0-0, Cocchiaro p 2-0-0, Barbaro lf 3-0-1, P. Gillette 2b 3-0-1, Hartnett dp 2-0-0, Alpert rf 2-0-0, Xifaris c 1-0-0, Graw 1b 0-0-0. Totals 22-0-3
Methuen (4): Tardugno cf 2-1-0, Crowe 2b 2-1-0, Mazzone ss 3-1-1, Littlefield dp 3-0-1, Spina pr 0-1-0, Rizzo 1b 3-0-1, McAlpine 3b 3-0-0, McCoy p 3-0-0, Allbee lf 2-0-0, Nelson ph 1-0-1, Horan rf 3-0-1. Boulanger c 0-0-0. Totals 25-4-5
RBI: Mazzone 2, Littlefield
WP: McCoy; LP: Cocchiaro
Andover (12-10): 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0
Methuen (17-4): 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 — 4