Softball: South Hadley’s Ella Schaeffer records 500th career strikeout in loss to East Longmeadow

South Hadley junior Ella Schaeffer recorded the 500th strikeout of her career in Monday’s 11-6 loss to East Longmeadow.

South Hadley junior Ella Schaeffer recorded the 500th strikeout of her career in Monday’s 11-6 loss to East Longmeadow. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE


Staff Writer

Published: 04-15-2024 7:37 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — With a pitcher as exceptional as Ella Schaeffer in the circle, a five-run lead seems plenty good enough – especially when she’s dealing.

Well, the South Hadley softball team spotted the junior ace five runs thanks to a six-run bottom of the third inning that jolted them ahead of East Longmeadow, 6-1.

The Spartans struggled to hit Schaeffer, who struck out the side in both the first and fourth innings and recorded her 500th career strikeout in the top of the second. Leaving no choice, they resorted to small ball.

South Hadley struggled to field bunts and ground balls throughout the contest, so East Longmeadow continued to lay down bunts and use slap hits to simply put the ball in play. With the help of the Tigers’ defense, the Spartans put up three runs in the fifth, one in the sixth and a back-breaking six-spot in the seventh to pull away to steal an 11-6 win over South Hadley on Monday afternoon.

The Tigers’ loss spoiled Schaeffer’s big day, as she fanned 15 East Longmeadow batters and added two RBI at the plate. Still, she was thrilled to eclipse a milestone not many have reached.

“I’m ecstatic,” Schaeffer said. “To say I did this, I feel like it’s something many people don’t have. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s something you can’t describe.”

South Hadley head coach Junior Perez was pleased with pitcher’s performance, but knows fielding let the club down in the loss.

“She did her job today,” Perez said of Schaeffer. “I think they squared the ball up twice, but we had some shotty defense. It’s up to us to better for next game.”

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South Hadley walked through the Suburban League West last spring. Perez jumped at the opportunity to move to the Valley Wheel in 2024, where the Tigers’ competition level will increase significantly.

It showed on Monday when East Longmeadow took advantage of every mistake South Hadley made. In previous seasons, they may have been able to get away with certain miscues.

That won’t be the case anymore.

“This is one we should’ve had,” Perez said. “We were up 6-1 in the sixth inning, and we just fell apart defensively. Last year, everything came so easy to us that you could get away with certain things. That ain’t gonna happen now. These teams are better. We wanted better competition and we got it.”

Heading into the bottom of the third, the Spartans held a 1-0 advantage. South Hadley’s Seville Kinney started the frame with a ground out to third. Jenna Bobrowski reached on an error followed by an Erin Bullough walk. But after Ara Powers popped up to the pitcher, it seemed the Tigers’ threat to score was gone now with two out.

Schaeffer stepped to the dish with other plans.

She ripped a two-run single into left center to score Bobrowski and Bullough, then was brought home via a Karli Carmody base knock. Ryley McMahon and Grace Matyszewski each ripped RBI singles as well, and a passed ball in between brought another run across. It was 6-1 in favor of the hosts after the damage was done – all with two down.

“We did what other teams do against us, we got the small ball down and put the ball in play,” Perez said. “It all came with two outs. But we didn’t add on, and that’s the problem. We get another one or two runs, it changes the way [East Longmeadow] play the later innings.”

South Hadley couldn’t manage any more runs, but it certainly had its chances. The Tigers left five runners on base on Monday, four of them being in scoring position when the inning ended.

And on several instances, base-running blunders either gave East Longmeadow free outs or served as missed opportunities to take a base for South Hadley.

“We had some bad base running in the fifth and sixth innings,” Perez said. “You get a run or two there, everything’s different in that last inning. That’s all self-inflicting, but it’s a great way to learn. We’ll be better for next time.”

Three bunts, three errors and two hits plagued the Tigers in the top half of the last, and East Longmeadow benefited with half a dozen runs to show for.

South Hadley (2-1) looks to get back on track on Wednesday afternoon against Agawam. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. back on the Tigers’ home field.

As for Schaeffer, her confidence isn’t diminished in the least bit. Only three games in, there’s plenty more in store this spring.

“I’m not done, that’s for sure,” Schaeffer said. “I’m gonna keep going.”