SHREWSBURY -- Groton-Dunstable (10-11) found itself in a hole with five games left in the regular season, sitting with an overall record of 5-10.
Head coach Derek Asadoorian and the Crusaders went on a tear to end the season on a five-game winning-streak -- qualifying for the Division 1 Central Mass. district tournament on the final day of the regular season with a commanding 12-0 mercy-shortened win over border rival Tyngsboro.
The Crusaders were dealt the No. 10 seed and traveled to No. 6 Shrewsbury (12-8) Saturday afternoon. Groton-Dunstable hung tough through the first three and 2/3 innings, but the wheels soon came off for Groton-Dunstable.
The Crusaders allowed four runs in the fourth and six runs in the fifth to shatter its playoff hopes.
"We didn't have it today," Asadoorian said. "We didn't have the bats or the pitching, and we made errors in the field that gave them extra outs. We just didn't play the way we were capable of playing today and that's a disappointment. These girls had a great season, and we had a lot of adversity at the beginning. To win five games at the end of the season to qualify is something to hang your hat on. Certainly Shrewsbury is a good team, and they came out and made the plays they needed to make."
Groton-Dunstable put runners at first and second with two outs in the first, but was unable to capitalize. Erin Olson stroked the Crusaders' first hit of the game with a slicing gap-shot to right center field. Ash then worked a 3-2 count for a walk, but she was left stranded as Shrewsbury starter Elise Lacasse caught shortstop Rose O'Malley swinging to end the inning.
Alyssa Ash (four strikeouts) retired the Colonials in order in the first inning with a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to short. The game remained scoreless through the first two innings, but it would be a throwing error at first that would allow Molly Dickinson, who doubled earlier in the inning, to score the first run of the game from second. Annika Liljegren, Celina Antonellis and Ariana Cho added singles in the sixth and seventh innings, but the damage was already done.
Saturday's loss marked the final game of five Crusader seniors' -- Antonellis, Ash, Cho, Liljegren and Olson.
"They're all quality softball players in their own right," Asadoorian said. "It's the person, the kid, that I am going to miss. It's the level of leadership they brought and the commitment they lived up to. We had three players on the team last year -- two of which started -- not come out. I thought we have no juniors but the seniors pulled the sophomores and freshmen together. I am going to miss everything they brought to the table."
The future is bright for Groton-Dunstable, now that it has a successful season under its belt. The Crusaders will yet again be a youthful bunch with no seniors. Groton-Dunstable brought back its junior varsity program after a two-year absence.
"Hopefully, the girls had a positive experience this year," Asadoorian said, "and the kids on this team will step-up and know this season was a learning experience for them.
They're going to have to be leaders. I told the sophomores that they are the ones who are going to be the captains next year. We have a lot of work to do, but I think they can learn something from those five seniors that we had."