Recap: No. 16 Central 3, No. 15 Chelmsford 1

Central Catholic freshman Olivia Antczak struck out 10, allowed just three hits and retired 20 of the final 21 batters to improve to 10-1 on the season. Ryan Kilian for ESPNBoston.com

CHELMSFORD, Mass. -- Central Catholic freshman Olivia Antczak tossed a 3-hitter to lead the Lady Raiders (11-1) to a 3-1 victory over Chelmsford (10-5) on Wednesday night in a battle of Merrimack Valley D1 teams.

Antczak improved to 10-1 on the season, as she struck out 10 batters en route to a 3-hit complete game win. That win also qualified Central Catholic for the MIAA Division 1 North tournament.

Chelmsford got on the board first in the bottom of the opening inning, as junior third baseman Rachel Couto doubled to left center field to drive in second baseman Clancy Taylor. Taylor had reached on a single and would also steal second base.

“I was definitely concerned when they came out and scored early as they also did that to us last game,” said Central Catholic head coach Stacy Ciccolo. “Our goal was to come in, minimize our damage early, and let whatever happens happen throughout the game.”

Chelmsford scored three runs in the opening inning of the team’s first meeting on April 13. In that game, Chelmsford defeated Central Catholic 6-4 to hand the Raiders their only loss to date on the season.

On Wednesday night, Chelmsford starting pitcher Meghan Rich battled through a first inning jam and shut down Central Catholic in order in the second before Central would plate their first run in the third inning.

“We came out early and played with more confidence tonight,” said Ciccolo. “We got a couple of big hits off of a very good pitcher.”

Antczak led off the third with a bomb to left field that would result in a triple, and eventually the game-tying run after a Brittney Hall single.

After Antczak shut Chelmsford down in the bottom of the third, Central would score its final two runs on a leadoff triple by first baseman Leslie Moore, and two RBI singles by Antczak and Nicole Howe.

“We try to emphasize having different people chip in each game,” noted Ciccolo. “It is nice to get it done all over the order and tonight it was done from the six, seven and eight spots.”

Despite a leadoff double in the sixth inning by sophomore Abby Desrosiers, Chelmsford could not find the answer to Antczak. The freshman retired 20 of her final 21 batters for the complete game victory.

Freshman Poise: Antczak is no average freshman, as the slender fireballer shows poise beyond her years on the mound.

“She is so composed and has incredible poise for her age,” Ciccolo said. “She recognizes that there is always something that she needs to work on. She is young and growing and she does a great job of always working on that next pitch.”

Antczak also had a big night at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a triple and one RBI.

She has now won three games in a row since the loss to Chelmsford including an impressive nine inning, 15-strikeout game in a 3-2 win over Methuen.

Intense Rivalry: “In the first game we played them we probably made about four or five errors,” recalled Ciccolo. “Chelmsford hit the ball well as they are a good hitting team but we definitely did not help our cause that game.”

Chelmsford and Central Catholic have battled for the top sport in the MVC Large the last four years and have built a nice rivalry in the MVC Division 1.

“We have a lot of respect for Chelmsford and we have built a nice rivalry with them that played out last year in the tournament. Central Catholic defeated Chelmsford 2-0 in the 2011 Division 1 North sectional semi-finals.

Central Catholic finished the 2011 season with a record of 18-4 and lost to in the Division 1 North final to Acton-Boxborough, 4-0. Despite graduating many key parts of last year’s squad, the 2012 Central Catholic girls look posed to make some noise again come playoff time.

Central Catholic meets up with surprising second place squad Tewksbury on Friday in another important MVC D1 game. Chelmsford will look to rebound from their fourth loss in five games when they take on Westford Academy on Friday afternoon.