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