Central Catholic Raiders Softball '08

Wed, Jun 11, 2008 07:00 PM @ Neutral Location
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Final
Playoff Game Division 2 - State Semifinals
Central Catholic 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ashland 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 5
Katie McMahon, Staff PhotographerMore photos

Ashland ace derails Central Catholic express

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Thursday, June, 12 By Chuck Frye
Staff writer

From scouting and four innings of first-hand knowledge, Ashland knew its best shot at victory over Central Catholic was to rattle the Raiders.

It took over half the Eastern Mass. Division 2 title game, but the undefeated Clockers finally broke through. After forcing the North champion Raiders into an uncharacteristic four errors, Ashland then delivered the clutch hits to make the mistakes hurt. The shut-down pitching of Gatorade state player of the year Nicole D'Argento was the final piece of the winning puzzle as the Clockers took a 5-0 decision before about 200 fans at Tripp Field.  

Now 27-0, Ashland will play Hudson Saturday at Worcester State College for the Division 2 state title. Central finishes its year at 18-7.

Central had three huge shots at seizing early momentum.

First, behind the defense of Tina Eringis and Monique Gosselin, the Raiders survived a bases-loaded, one-out threat in the top of the first inning without surrendering a run.

Then, the Raiders had a bases-loaded rally of their own in the third. However, with Carla Borrelli (single), Erin Swarbrick and Liz Habib (two fielder's choices with Borrelli safe each time) on in the second, D'Argento got Lisa Policelli to strike out and leadoff hitter Lindsay Martin to foul to catcher Lindsay Shorey.

In the third with Gosselin (3 for 3) at third, D'Argento fanned Borrelli. The Raiders never threatened again.

"I thought that early on in the game, we put the bat on the ball well," Central head coach Stacy Ciccolo said. "We were aggressive at the plate, making good decisions on pitches, and we were able to get several players into scoring position. We just couldn't get them in."

"Until the fifth inning, I though Central Catholic may have had the better scoring chances," said Ashland head coach Steve O'Neill.

But when freshman No. 8 hitter Mariah Stuart was hit with the first pitch of the fifth inning, O'Neill saw his opportunity.

"We saw Central play Amesbury (in the North sectional finals) and we knew they were a tremendous defensive team," O'Neill said. "The only way to beat a team like that is by being aggressive."

Freshman catcher Kristen Giombetti laid down a bunt that was bobbled and thrown wide of first base for an error, and when a hustling Stuart forced a wide throw to third, the Clockers had two runners in scoring position with nobody out.

This time, Ashland, the top-ranked team in Eastern Mass., cashed in when Kylene Pease stroked a bases-clearing double to deep left field for the only runs her squad would need.

"In the last four games, Kylene has been killing the ball," O'Neill said. "She's been our dynamic offensive force. Scoring those two runs took the pressure off of us."   

D'Argento more than made the lead stand up, retiring 13 of the last 15 batters she faced in a five-hit shutout, striking out nine and walking just one while throwing 116 pitches. She also crushed an RBI double as part of a three-run insurance policy in the seventh inning which was helped by two more Raider miscues.

Despite being only the seventh-seeded team in Division 2 North, Central equalled the best state tourney run in the 12-year history of the program. The 2002 team also fell in the state semifinals.

"This was a great season for us," Ciccolo said. "We graduated two key players, the MVP of our league and our pitcher, and no one expected us to be involved in the state semifinals. I'm proud of our seniors and the people that filled key roles for us. You don't want to end on a game like this but we had a great year."

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