Swampscott wins Holland Tournament in a thriller

Caleigh Hopkins gets set to pitch during Sunday's game against St. Mary's. (Item Photo by Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — It seemed fitting that on a day when St. Mary’s rallied twice on Swampscott, the game ended with a base running miscue.

That’s the story of Sunday’s 13-12 win by Swampscott over St. Mary’s in the final of the John G. Holland Memorial Softball Tournament at Breed.

Swampscott took advantage of a combination of walks and hits off St. Mary’s starter Christina Nowicki, plus some defensive lapses on the part of the Spartans, to score eight runs in the first innings. The Big Blue sent 13 batters to the plate, and five of the runs were scored by the top three hitters in the order: Sydney Cresta, Mia Hopkins and Katie Watts. Small wonder, then, that all three made it to the all-tournament team, with Cresta who was on base three times and scored three runs, named the tournament’s MVP (the first time since 2014 the award hasn’t gone to a pitcher).

“This is our fourth win in a row, and it’s best best we’ve played all season,” said Swampscott coach Gary Moran. “We have one more game left (against Revere later this week) and I hope we can keep it going.

“I didn’t think St. Mary’s was going to roll over,” Moran said. “We had just enough to hold them off.  That’s a good team, and you knew they were going to be heard from before it was all over.”

After getting a run off reliever Lily Newhall in the second (regular pitcher Angelia Pepe was unavailable to pitch after going seven hard innings in a tournament-opening 6-2 over Classical Saturday), the eighth-grader from St. Mary’s keep the Big Blue off the board for three innings before Swampscott scored four in the bottom of the sixth. But by then, St. Mary’s had shaved the deficit down to a run — 9-8 — with two runs in the third, and three in the fifth and sixth innings (with Talia Smaller, Jordan Sullivan and Jennie Iudice knocking in the three runs in the sixth inning).

Swampscott seemingly put the game out of reach with four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Once again, Cresta was in the middle of it all, as were Hopkins and Watts.

Cresta led off with a single to center, and was sacrificed to second by Hopkins. Watts drove home Cresta with a base hit, and reached third on an error. She scored on a wild pitch.

Chloe Rakauskas walked and scored on an error, and Riley Lord, who had reached on the error, scored on Sarah Ryan’s double.

St. Mary’s scored four in the top of the seventh. Newhall drew a walk off Lord, pitching in relief of Caleigh Hopkins, and Felicia D’Alessandro beat out a bunt.  Nowicki’s single drove home Newhall, and after Marina DiBiasio reached on an error, and Smaller walked to load the bases, Sullivan’s sacrifice fly brought home Nowicki. The other two runners moved up on Sullivan’s fly ball, and Iudice followed with a single. Both runners scored, but Swampscott catcher Nicollette Fraser, amid much noise and confusion, alertly threw to second to nab Iudice, who was trying to grab the extra base.

“I knew we’d come back,” said St. Mary’s coach Paige Licata. “We had that bad first inning, but it wasn’t all our pitcher’s fault. We just didn’t play well.

“But once we started hitting, I knew we’d make a game of it,” she said. “We have a tendency to take an inning off here and there, like the first today, but we get our hits in bunches too.”

Cresta, Mia Hopkins and Watts were on base seven times combined, and came home all seven times.

St. Mary’s placed  Pepe and Sullivan on the all-tournament team while English’s Tommi Hill and Grace Gately made the team, as well as Classical’s Meghan Leavitt and Johnna Calder. Tori Adams, the Rams’ pitcher, inaugural sportsmanship award.

Winners of the annual Holland scholarship, which goes to a senior from each school, were Riley Lord, Hill, English; and Leavitt. St. Mary’s doesn’t have any seniors on this year’s team.

Classical defeated English in the consolation game, a highlight of which was Leavitt’s towering 2-run homer.

The Big Blue defeated English in the first game Saturday night, while the Spartans pulled away late to defeat the Rams, 6-2 in the nightcap.

In the opener, Watts scored three runs and Caleigh Hopkins went all five innings in the circle in defeating English.

For English, Hill stood out defensively at third base and Gately behind the plate. They also scored the English runs.

In the second game, Pepe struck out 12 in a dominating pitching performance. Classical drew first blood with runs in the third inning on an RBI single by Kayla Morrill and a squeeze bunt in the fourth by Amanda Wilkins that scored Adams.

Sullivan’s 2-run double tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, and the Spartans scored four more runs in the fifth on RBI hits by Talia Smaller, Jenny Iudice and Alyssa Grossi.

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