TAUNTON, Mass. – St. Mary’s coach Colleen Newbury looks through Red Sox Nation glasses when viewing the relationship between pitchers Brooke L’Abbe and Mia Nowicki.
“She’s like our [Jonathan] Papelbon,” Newbury said Wednesday after the Spartans edged Case, 4-3, in a Division 3 state semifinal game. “It’s a big joke – Papelbon for [John] Lackey.
“We usually use three pitchers. Brooke [L'Abbe] did a great job keeping them off-balance. She’s our leader – our true captain for two years. We usually go to Jordan D’Orsi during middle relief and then go to Mia in the late innings. But today we felt like Mia could overpower them a little bit which she did.
“She’s very poised,” added Newbury. “You would never know she’s an eighth grader. It’s very unusual but she’s a strong kid. She’s very athletic and nothing seems to bother her.”
Nowicki was so strong that she blanked South Sectional champ Case (23-4) on one hit over the last three innings replete with three strikeouts and zero walks and faced just one batter over the minimum.
As a result the Spartans (20-5) will face Assabet Valley on Saturday at Worcester State for the state championship.
Making St. Mary’s victory even more impressive was the fact that in their four sectional tournament games, the Cardinals had outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 46-9.
“Wow … I had no idea,” Newbury said when informed of Case’s offensive prowess during the sectionals. “I think Brooke pitched well. I think we just gave them some runs early and then Mia was lights out. She has been.
“The goal is four (innings) and three if we can do it so it worked out great.”
St. Mary’s scored its initial run in the top of the first when Alison Butler walked and eventually came around on Molly Coyle’s double.
But Case countered with three runs in its half of the first.
A hustling Danielle Robillard scored all the way from second on Kelsey Pacheco’s infield hit. Then, after Katie Van Lingen doubled, two runs came home on an errant throw by shortstop Coyle.
The Spartans chipped one run off their 3-1 deficit in the second when Kaleigh Fenigan was hit by a Leslie Dennis pitch with the bases loaded.
St. Mary’s tied it in the fifth on consecutive singles by Coyle, L’Abbe and Tatiana Doucette.
Then, in the seventh, Doucette laced a two-out double to center, advanced on a wild pitch and scored the winning run when Cassandra LaFuci hit a liner to shortstop Haley Sousa who dropped the ball for an error.
“We knew we were facing a tough opponent,” Newbury said. “They’ve been to the state title game the last few years and lost so, obviously, their goal was to get back to that game and win. It was just a matter of getting going.”