D3 North softball: Matignon 3, St. Mary's 1

No. 16 seed Matignon continued its Cinderella postseason run, outlasting Catholic Central Conference rival St. Mary's for the Division 3 North sectional title on Sunday. Ryan Kilian for ESPNBoston.com

LOWELL, Mass. -- No. 16 seed Matignon advanced to the Eastern Massachusetts Division 3 championship game on Sunday as they defeated Catholic Central League Large rival No. 6 St. Mary’s 3-1 in the D3 North Sectional final at Martin Field.

On Sunday afternoon, Matignon dethroned four time back to back North Sectional champion St. Mary’s behind an effective blend of small ball, aggressive base running and strong defense.

“We knew that we were solid defensively and that eventually we would get the runs that we needed,” Matignon head coach Jessica DePolito said.

Matignon received a complete game effort from senior hurler Lauren Doneski. Despite not striking out a single St. Mary’s batter Doneski surrendered only four hits and did not let up an earned run over the course of her outing.

“I just threw strikes out there today,” Doneski said. “St. Mary’s has good hitters and you cannot strike them out so I just trusted my defense and teammates and we did it.”

St. Mary’s starting pitcher Brooke L’Abbe also delivered a strong performance on the mound as the junior struck out 10 batters and also added a single and a walk at the plate.

“She is a good pitcher,” DePolito said. “We were having a little trouble catching up to her so we wanted to do whatever we could to get runners into scoring position.”

St. Mary’s scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the second inning as Genevieve Benoit walked to lead off the inning. Benoit would later score on an error by Matignon second baseman Julia Graf. Graf would more than atone for her error in the field as the sophomore made three spectacular plays in the later innings of the game.

Trailing 1-0 in the top of the third inning with one out Graf would walk and set the table for a two running inning. The inning featured a successful safety squeeze by Kayla McKinnon that plated Graf and an RBI double by Doneski that plated Sarah Gauthier. Gauthier reached on a 200 foot blast down the right field line that was mishandled in the strong Sunday afternoon sun.

Both Doneski and L’Abbe did a great job of controlling the middle innings of the game as they shut down each opposing offense in the fourth and fifth innings 1-2-3.

In the top of the sixth inning Matignon would score an important insurance run as Doneski led off the inning with a walk and would reach second base on a sacrifice bunt by Diana Golini. Junior catcher Ryen Cahill would step to the plate with one out and rip a double down the left field line that scored Doneski to give Matignon a 3-1 lead.

Doneski would retire the final three St. Mary’s batters in order to end the game and give Matignon a trip to the Eastern Massachusetts D3 state championship game where they will take on D3 South sectional champion Case (17-7). Case won the 2011 Eastern Massachusetts championship last year before dropping a 1-0 contest in the state championship game to Turners Falls.

Improvement: Matignon struggled out of the gate this season but overcame those early struggles to finish the 2012 regular season with a 12-8 mark.

“The talent was always there,” DePolito said. “They just had to really believe in themselves, learn how to win and how to be a winning team. That is why they won today because they worked hard all season. Everyone has stepped up at different time this season to make a play.”

Doneski agreed with her coach’s assessment and added, “It was a tough start but we just kept trying and practicing hard and we turned it around. As seniors we did not give up and we wanted to make the state tournament and have a great season.”