WORCESTER — When Ali Atherton was in middle school, she and her teammates watched the Milford High softball team win Division 1 state titles in 2012 and 2013. After the games, she would go out onto the field and pretend that she was pitching the Scarlet Hawks to another title.
She doesn’t have to pretend anymore.
Atherton was excellent on the mound Saturday night, retiring 16 of the final 19 batters she faced as the Scarlet Hawks came back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Wachusett, 7-3, to win the Division 1 state final.
“I can’t believe four years later, we actually did it,” said Atherton. “We worked so hard. We finally did it.”
The Mountaineers (21-4) struck first, taking a 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning thanks to a two-run single by catcher Lizzie Milesand an infield single by second baseman Paige Arvidson.
“They came out early and threw the first knockout blow,” said Milford coach Steve DiVitto. “We responded, and that’s what championship teams do. In big spots, in big moments, you respond. We chipped away there in the second and then we were able to really put some things together later on in the game.”
The Scarlet Hawks (25-1) began their comeback immediately, getting two runs in the bottom of the second and two more in the bottom of the fourth inning. The top four hitters in Milford’s lineup went a combined 10 for 16 — shortstop Emily Piergustavo (3 for 4, two RBIs, two runs), first baseman Jessica Tomaso (3 for 4, RBI), and outfielders Kate Irwin (2 for 4, RBI, run) and Maggie Farrell (2 for 4, two RBIs).
Atherton recovered from her tough second inning, finishing the day with one strikeout in the five-hitter, allowing just one hit after the second inning. That lone hit came in the sixth inning with the Scarlet Hawks nursing a 4-3 lead, but Atherton induced a fly out to center field to strand the tying run at third base before the Scarlet Hawks tacked on three insurance runs.
“They’re just a team that competes,” said DiVitto. “There’s going to be things that go your way, there’s going to be things that don’t go your way. You’ve got to be able to ride those peaks and valleys as the game goes on. They did just that, and we’re back on top.”