Wilmington's Ashley Crawford reaches second base

Wilmington's Ashley Crawford reaches second base safely for the High School Summer Softball team during their win over Essex. (photo by JoeBrownphotos.com).

WILMINGTON — The Wilmington High summer softball team used the occasion of its home opener to garner its first win of the season, a 5-0 shutout of Essex, in Merrimack Valley action, last Wednesday at Hazel Field in Tewksbury.

The marquis game on the schedule, the Town Crier Classic against Tewksbury, was supposed to be played at their shared home field, Thursday night, but it was postponed by thunderstorms until August 5 (8 p.m.), again at Hazel Field.

With regular starting pitcher Audrey Powers unable to make the Essex Aggie game, the Wildcats turned to Burlington import, Cecelia Imbimbo to make her season debut.

Imbimbo worked her way around five hits in a complete game shutout, striking out 16 Hawks’ batters along the way.

“Her change up is great,” said Wilmington coach Taylor Hanley, of Imbimbo. “She got a lot of girls with her off speed for strike three.”

Wildcat first baseman Bella Kieran was the hitting star for the second game in a row. She had triples in back-to-back innings to drive in four runs while going 3-for-3. Other hitting stars were catcher Ashley Crawford (2-for-3), along with Imbimbo, Jenna Sweeney, Sofia Scalfani and Lily Mackenzie, who accounted for the other Wilmington hits.

Prior to the fourth inning, the Wildcats could only manage a pair of hits in three innings, both coming in the first on singles by Crawford and Kieran.

Imbimbo was perfect through the first two innings before Essex Aggie got its first hit in the top of the third inning.

The Wildcats played excellent defense behind Imbimbo, allowing them to keep the pressure off their pitcher and helping her to remain focused on the next batter.

“For the small amount of play that they got, yeah,” said Hanley, on the play of the Wilmington defense behind Cece. “Ashley had a good game behind the plate. I don’t think she had a single passed ball.”

It was the defense that thwarted the Hawks’ best chance to break up the shutout, executing a fine relay from the outfield with a pair of Essex runners on base.

Wilmington broke the scoreless deadlock in the bottom of the fourth, keyed by the first of Kieran’s two triples. Scalfani followed with a single to drive Kieran in from third for the run and 1-0 lead.

In the fifth, Wilmington used a two-out rally to put Essex away, scoring four runs to take a 5-0 lead.

With two outs, Imbimbo, Sweeney and Crawford all had singles to put the Hawks’ pitcher in a jam. Kieran made her pay with a three-run triple. Kieran scored the fourth run when an errant throw from the outfield slowed her to score from third.

The Wildcats also got fine play from Ashley Forward, Ashley Lavigne and Anna Warford to help secure the 5-0 whitewashing.

“They were happy, but nothing crazy” said Hanley, of her team’s reaction to their first victory. “Any win makes it a little more exciting. This is the first game that they got a little louder in the dugout and on the field, so it felt a little more exciting.”

This week, the Wildcats played in Woburn, Tuesday evening, and they will be back on the road, Wednesday night (6:15 p.m.), at Breed Middle School in Lynn, taking on St. Mary’s of Lynn.

Wilmington will have three games in a row, from Tuesday through Thursday, next week, beginning with a game at North Reading on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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