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St. Mary’s reaches the D3 North finals with 5-2 win over Matignon

Mia Nowicki closes out the win

Mia Nowicki closes out the win

Pitcher Brooke LAbbe cheers as the fourth inning ends with a double play

Pitcher Brooke LAbbe cheers as the fourth inning ends with a double play

(Lowell) The St. Mary’s Spartans got back to a familiar spot (D3 North finals) with a, 5-2, win over Matignon on a cloudy Thursday afternoon at Martin Field.

The Spartans will face Whittier on Sunday at noon in a battle for the D3 North title.

St. Mary’s (18-5) has won the D3 North championship in four of the last five years.  The lone miss was last year to Matignon (3-1 on June 10th).

Both teams are from the Central Catholic Large division.  They had faced each other twice this season and the Spartans registered a 2-1 win in April and a 2-0 win in May.

Obviously runs were scarce during the regular season which was why St. Mary’s 3-run fourth inning in this game was the difference maker.

In that crucial inning the team from Lynn turned little things into something big.  They started with a walk and a well-placed bunt to get the first two runners on.  A bloop single (Alex Fisher) to center brought home a run (pinch runner Alexis Mango) to give St. Mary’s a 2-1 edge.

Alison Butler - big double in the fourth inning

Alison Butler – big double in the fourth inning

If the inning had ended there the final outcome might have been different.  However, with two on and two out Alison Butler did a wonderful impersonation of Johnny Damon and Ichiro Suzuki before launching a 2-run double over Nat McAllister’s head in left.

Damon & Ichiro?  In their primes, those two were notorious for fouling off pitch after pitch to keep an at-bat going.  Alison did the same thing.  I’m guessing the left-handed batter fouled off at least five pitches before stoking the biggest hit of the game (in my opinion).

Matignon (16-7) cut a run off the Spartans’ 4-1 lead in the fifth but St. Mary’s got the run back in their half of the sixth.

Brooke L’Abbe and Jordan D’Orsi limited the Warriors to four hits over five inning.  Mia Nowicki pitched a hitless sixth and seventh for the save.

Sophomore Sydnee Bessler went six for Matignon yielding seven hits.  Three of those hits were in the game-deciding fourth inning.  Sydnee had eight of her ten strikeouts in the first three innings.

Two-base throwing error allows Julia Graf to score

Two-base throwing error allows Julia Graf to score

Julia Graf had two of Matignon’s four hits.

Allison Butler and Tatiana Doucette each had two hits for St. Mary’s.

St. Mary’s (#4 seed) tallied its first run in the second inning.  A double by Cassi LaFauci drove in teammate Molly Doyle who had started the inning with a double.

The team from Cambridge tied the game with an unearned run in the third.  A two-base, two-out throwing error by Spartans shortstop Molly Doyle allowed Julia Graf to score.

Matignon (#8 seed) picked up a run with some clever base running in the fifth inning.  The Warriors had runners on first and third with one out.  The runner on first (Julia Graf) broke for second drawing a throw from catcher Tatiana Doucette.  Once the throw was made, the runner on third (Nat McAllister) headed for home without drawing a throw.

St. Mary’s final run came in the sixth.  Tatiana Doucette led off with a triple and scored on Mia Nowicki’s grounder to second.  The second baseman (Julia Graf) tried to get Tatiana at the plate but the throw was high.

Alex Fisher is sent home in the fourth

Alex Fisher is sent home in the fourth

So, it was that fourth inning that extends the Spartans season at least into Sunday.

The mid-afternoon, weekday 3:15 PM start had forty folks in the stands when the game began.  Quite a few more arrived as the game progressed.

There were enough clouds in the sky to make me think that there would be rain before the game ended.  Thankfully, that didn‘t happen.

Nice to hear the National Anthem played before softball games.  I know that retiring Ipswich head coach Doug Woodworth had the Anthem played before his home games but I don’t know of anyone else who does it.

Spartan closer Mia Nowicki is an eighth grader.  She throws hard and has a very nice changeup.

Olivia McDonald

Olivia McDonald

Two of Matignon’s starters (Shawna McGaffigan and Olivia McDonald) are seniors.

St. Mary’s has won nine of their last ten games.

I have seen shifts but the one that St. Mary’s put on against freshman Sam McKean was unique.  With Sam’s reputation as a bunter in place, the Spartans had eight players in the infield dirt and one player a step out in the outfield grass.  It worked.  I kept thinking that any sort of hit into the outfield would be for extra bases if not a home run.

Matignon squandered a nice chance in the fourth inning.  Nicole Sylvester reached third after a double and a sacrifice bunt (Joe Tagher) with one out.  Kayla McKinnon then hit a hard grounder to third.  Spartans 3B Kaleigh Finigan made the stop, tagged Kayla and threw to first for an inning-ending double play.

Matignon had runners in scoring position in four different innings without cashing in.

St. Mary’s boxscore

Matignon boxscore

(All of the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

well placed bunt

well placed bunt

Joe Tagher and Olivia McDonald

Joe Tagher and Olivia McDonald

Jordan DOrsi

Jordan DOrsi

Tatiana Doucette slides in with the fifth Spartans run

Tatiana Doucette slides in with the fifth Spartans run

Nicole Sylvester

Nicole Sylvester

Sydnee Bessler

Sydnee Bessler

Kaleigh Finigan

Kaleigh Finigan

Cassi LaFauci drives in the first Spartans run

Cassi LaFauci drives in the first Spartans run

Elusive popup

Elusive popup

Victoria Viger squares to bunt

Victoria Viger squares to bunt

Nicole Sylvester races for second

Nicole Sylvester races for second

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Matignon gains Division 3 North softball title with 3-1 win over St. Mary’s

Matignon – Division 3 North softball champions

Lauren Doneski – limited the Spartans to four hits

(Lowell) Matignon defeated St. Mary’s 3-1 as familiar foes from the Catholic Central Large went at it in the Division 3 North softball finals on sunny Sunday afternoon at Martin Field.

The win gets the Warriors (17-8) into the state semi-finals against Case High School from Swansea.

St. Mary’s (17-7) had won the D3 North the last four years and were state champs in 2009 and 2010.

The Spartans (#4 seed) usually feature pitcher Brooke L’Abbe and plenty of hitting.  Unfortunately versus Matignon, Brooke did her part (ten strikeouts) but the hitting (four hits) was scattered at best.

Matignon pitcher Lauren Doneski never struck anyone out but was hardly ever hit hard.  The Warrior senior allowed just two hits over the final five innings and St. Mary’s left only one runner on base during those five innings.

Both teams had “fall-apart” innings.  For Matignon (#16 seed) it was in the second.  For St. Mary’s it was in the third.  Both teams were able to limit the bleeding but Matignon came away with enough runs to win the game.

Nina Murray slides into third as Jocelyn Tagher awaits throw

In the St. Mary’s second, with courtesy runner Nina Murray on second, Warrior second baseman Julia Graf dropped Tatiana Doucette’s popup.  After the drop, Julia tried to get Nina trying for third and her throw went past Matignon third baseman Jocelyn Tagher allowing Nina to score with one out.  The Spartans would eventually have runners on second (Molly Doyle) and third (Tatiana Doucette) with two outs before Lauren Doneski got Alison Butler to pop out to shortstop to end the inning.

Ahead 1-0 after two innings, it was St. Mary’s turn to allow an extra out and suffer the consequences.  After a Julia Graf walk, right fielder Abbe Caggiano dropped a long fly by Sarah Gauthier setting up Matignon with runners on first and third with one out.  Kayla McKinnon bunted to third but on the throw to first Julia Graf darted home with Matignon’s first run.  Equally important was that during the throw to first and then home, Sarah Gauthier reached third with two outs.  Lauren Doneski’s single to short left delivered Sarah with the Warrior’s important second run.

So after innings in which each team’s defense was a bit shaky, Matignon came out ahead, 2-1, after 2 ½ innings.

Brooke LAbbe – ten strikeouts

The Warriors grabbed some breathing room in the sixth.  Lauren Doneski walked (Brooke L’Abbe’s only walk of the game) and was sacrificed to second by Diana Golini with two outs.  Junior Ryen Cahill then ripped a double down the left field line getting Lauren home.

Brooke had a single with one out in the bottom of the sixth but that was all the Warriors allowed the rest of the way.

Alison Butler, Brooke L’Abbe, Tatiana Doucette, and Molly Doyle had hits for St. Mary’s.

Sarah Gauthier, Lauren Doneski, Eileen Bergin, Diana Golini, and Ryen Cahill had hits for Matignon.

Matignon of Cambridge and St. Mary’s of Lynn met twice during the regular season with each team winning once.

(All of the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Coach Colleen Newbury

Matignon gets D3 North trophy

Molly Doyle

Isabella Palange catches the final out

Matignon coach Jessica DePolito

Lauren Doneski scores third Warrior run

Tatiana Doucette out stealing

Alison Butler steals second

Ryen Cahill

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St. Mary’s defeats Rockport 8-1 in the Division 3 North softball semi-finals

This was the view looking down the third baseline before the first weather delay.

Alison Butler stands on second after driving in two runs in the fourth.

(Lowell) My mother used to have to tell me to come in out of the rain.  During thunder and lightning I didn’t have to be told!

That’s why, after 3 ½ innings I left the St. Mary’s/Rockport game as it went into it’s second delay.  The first delay was over a downpour that necessitated work on the infield after it ended.  The second delay was over dark clouds, rumbles of thunder and lightning.

When I saw the players heading for their buses, as I sat it my car during the second delay, I was not optimistic about the game resuming.  So I headed for home…….and missed the final 3 ½ innings of St. Mary’s 8-1 win over Rockport in the Division 3 North softball semi-finals on Friday afternoon/evening.

Brooke LAbbe – winning pitcher

When I left after 3 ½ innings, the Spartans had a commanding 5-0 lead and St. Mary’s starter Brooke L’Abbe had retired nine Vikings in a row after leadoff batter Hannah Lorden’s ground single in the first.

After being retired one-two-three in the first inning St. Mary’s displayed it’s long game with doubles in each of the next three innings.

Two of those doubles (Kaleigh Finigan and Brooke L’Abbe) were hit over outfielders’ heads.  The other was a “speed” double by Alison Butler.  Those extra-base hits drove in four of the five Spartan runs.

Rockport threatened in the first.  Hannah Lorden singled and got as far as third before catcher Mollie Watson ended the inning flying to left.

Rockport (16-5) finishes with their best softball record in school history.  They’ll have some key players to replace, especially four-year pitcher Kristin Turner, but several of the Cape Ann League’s best (shortstop Gabby Muniz and catcher Mollie Watson) have Viking season’s ahead.

St. Mary’s resume is enough to scare most teams.  They were state champs in 2009 & 2010.  They’ve been D3 North champs for four straight seasons.  Any losses they have are usually to higher division opponents.

St. Mary’s will face league rival Matignon in the final on Sunday at 1PM at Martin Field in Lowell.  (My intentions are to be there……..for the whole game!)

Kaleigh Finigan – missed the Spartan loss to Matignon during the regular season

The Spartans have defeated Matignon two of the three times they played each other this season.  The 9-7 Matignon win on May 4th would need some sort of asterisk beside it since Spartan slugger Kaleigh Finigan didn’t play.

Two things that caught my attention during this game: (1) St. Mary’s outfielders play extremely shallow, and (2) Rockport’s first baseman (Kendra Adams) and third baseman (Kayla Parisi) were halfway between their bases and home during the at-bats of the first two Spartan batters.

The Spartan outfielders were very fast so even if a ball went over their heads the runner would only get a double.  During the three Rockport innings I saw, the Spartan outfielder never had to move back once.

That playing-close routine at first and third is worrisome to me.  I would like it a lot better if the fielders were wearing protective masks, but they weren’t.  I know that the theory for the positioning is to have to cover less ground on a bunt but without a mask it’s way too risky for my taste.
(All of the pictures above and below enlarge if you click on them.)

Victoria Viger catches a popup in the second inning.

Kendra Adams chases a foul pop in front of the Spartan dugout. (The ball is along the railing.)

Courtesy runner Cassandra LaFauci heads for third and home on the Kaleigh Finigan single in the third.

catcher Genevieve Benoit

Gabby Muniz

Meghan Tupper

Kristin Turner

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