LOWELL, Mass. -- The third time was a charm for the Acton-Boxborough softball team.
The No. 7 Colonials (19-5) picked up the Division 1 North final trophy with a 4-0 victory over No. 5 Central Catholic (18-4) on Tuesday at Martin Field in their third trip to the sectional finals (1999, 2007).
“We’ve been just pushing ourselves to get to this point,” said Colonials head coach Mary Matthews, who was a sophomore on the 1999 team that lost in the finals. “All season it’s been believe in yourselves after a rough start. To be here today is just awesome.”
The Colonials lost four times in their first five games, but have only lost once in their last 17 times. A big reason for that turnaround has been the pitching of Sarah Ropiak and on the biggest stage she made sure that trend continued.
Ropiak allowed a leadoff triple in the bottom of the first, but she would not surrender a hit for the remainder of the game. Only two players reached based, one on a walk and one on an error, but neither of those base runners reached second base. The right-handed pitcher finished with eight strike outs and one walk in the victory.
“I was just mixing mostly, just keeping them off-balanced,” Ropiak said.
Added Matthews: “You can never talk enough about [Ropiak’s] pitching.”
When Ropiak did allow a runner to reach base, her defense and her ability to make pitcher in big spot were on display. Brianna Martin scorched the second pitch of the game over the head of the left fielder and found her way on third.
Ropiak got a swinging strikeout, a lazy pop up to second and a strikeout looking to strand Martin on third. In the fourth and sixth, Ropiak let her defense, most notably catcher Lindsay Gibbs, take care of things with a runner on base.
Gibbs showcased a quick release and a very accurate arm to nab two potential would-be base runners trying to steal second base.
“I’ve been saying all year why would anyone run on Gibbs?” said Matthews. “She’s so solid back there. She calls the entire game and she’s been doing a great job.
“We kind of called something high so (the ball) was up, but Sarah pitched it perfectly and we got them both times."
The Colonials offense got a run in the top of the first after Jamay Li hit a RBI triple to plate Maddie Hatch. In the top of the fifth, the Colonials took advantage of some sloppy play by the Raiders to grab two more runs.
Nicole Geoffrion’s deep drive to center couldn’t be corralled by the centerfielder, allowing Michell Surdan to scamper home for the 2-0 lead. Geoggrion trotted home on a wild pitch to plate the third run.
The Raiders made two errors in the inning behind starter Meg Donegan, who gave up three earned runs in a complete-game loss.
“We gave probably about six outs,” said Raiders’ coach Stacy Ciccolo. “You can’t do that. This is the final of the North and you can’t do that. That opened the game for them.”