Softball: Maddy Wachter twirls perfect game, Concord advances to Division I semifinals

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 06-04-2023 9:44 AM

CONCORD – Concord’s Maddy Wachter stood in the circle on the softball diamond at Memorial Field early Saturday evening having retired each of the first 20 hitters she faced. Her team led 3-0 with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. Timberlane’s Katie O’Leary stood in the right-handed batter’s box with a 2-2 count.

Wachter fired a rise ball. O’Leary swung and missed. A perfect game for the No. 1 Tide (18-1) – in the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs no less.

She struck out 11 of the 21 hitters she faced; only three balls put in play left the infield – pure domination in one of the biggest moments of her softball career.

“Maddy was just phenomenal today,” Concord head coach Duke Sawyer said. “On fire. Lights out. What can you say?”

In case the perfect game to send her team to the semifinals on Tuesday at Plymouth State wasn’t noteworthy enough, Wachter’s seventh strikeout of the afternoon leading off the fifth inning was the 300th of her career.

Wachter’s had brilliant performances before: She set a Tide single-game, seven-inning record when she struck out 18 batters in a one-hit shutout against Bishop Guertin on May 15; she struck out 17 earlier in the season in starts against Alvirne and Goffstown. But a perfect game in the brightest of spotlights against pesky No. 9 Timberlane (13-7) surely tops the list.

“This is right near the top from what I've seen,” Sawyer said of the performance. “It's not only a no-hitter; it's a perfect game, in a playoff game against a good team.”

Wachter received some run support, though not a ton against the Owls’ Alexa Salafia who’d only allowed three unearned runs to the Tide the last time these two teams matched up on May 12.

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In the bottom of the first, Delaney Duford was hit by a pitch, and Andie Moreira followed with a bunt single. Two batters later, Kryslin Stearns hit a ground ball to third that brought Duford home for the first run. Then in the third, bloop doubles to right field from Duford and Sarah Taylor doubled Concord’s lead to 2-0; Olivia Crawford added extra insurance in the fourth with an RBI single to right.

It wasn’t the most scintillating offensive effort from the Tide this season, especially for a team that entered Saturday averaging nearly 11 runs per game.

“She gives us fits,” Sawyer said of Salafia. “She mixes it up well. Mixes her speeds. We had trouble with her, so I'm glad we don't see her again this year.”

Defensively, Concord also locked it in from the first pitch. Brooke Wyatt made several impressive plays at shortstop, including on a ground ball in the sixth inning that ricocheted off Wachter’s glove that she calmly gathered and fired to first to record the out. 

“Whatever they hit, we got,” said Sawyer. “Outfield played well. They made a couple nice catches. Brooke at shortstop, nothing's going to get through her today.”

Now the Tide’s attention turns to No. 4 Salem (17-3), a team it beat, 4-2, in the final game of the regular season. Repeating that outcome will be no easy task.

“They’ve got hitters one through nine that are great hitters,” Sawyer said. “They hit it hard. It's going to be a challenge for us.”

Concord will likely turn to its other ace, Taylor, in the circle for the start. Before the playoffs began, Sawyer admittedly wasn’t sure which of his two top pitchers he’d turn to in that first game. But matchups seemed to have worked to the Tide’s advantage.

Sawyer started Wachter against Timberlane because the Owls had already faced Taylor in the regular season matchup; meanwhile, Wachter pitched against Salem on May 25, so Taylor will provide a different look on Tuesday with the Tide one win away from a third straight trip to the D-I championship game.

It won’t be easy, of course. But if Wachter and her team’s performance proved one thing on Saturday, it’s that this team has the talent, the composure and the chemistry to finish the job. A perfect game in the regular season is a monumental accomplishment; but a perfect game in the playoffs against a strong opponent?

“Just a great game,” Sawyer said. “Great first playoff game.”

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