LOWELL — Despite taking a lead into the top of the fifth inning, the No. 10 St. Mary’s softball team couldn’t hold on and fell to No. 11 Amesbury, 4-2, in the Division 2 North semifinals at Martin Field Thursday afternoon.
The Spartans had a great day in the circle and in the field, but in the end it was the bats that let them down.
“I think we played really solid, I was proud of the way we played,” said St. Mary’s coach Paige Licata. “But we’ve been struggling all season with having poor offensive games, and this was unfortunately one of them. We scored 12 runs in the last game and only had five hits today, and that’s the way it’s gone for us this year.”
Three of those five hits came in the first inning. Jordan Sullivan (1-for-3) had the lone RBI on the day for St. Mary’s. In the circle, Lily Newhall gave a standout performance despite the loss. Newhall went the first six innings, allowing just two runs (one earned) on six hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
In her first varsity game, seventh-grader Angelina Catino played very well defensively at first base in place of Talia Smaller, who missed the game for a showcase tournament.
But the Spartans had a tough time dealing with Amesbury’s Hayley Catania, who did damage in the circle and at the plate. She went 2-for-3 with the bat, reaching base four times and knocking one RBI. But she was even better in the circle, tossing a complete game and allowing two runs on five hits with one walk and 10 strikeouts.
“She’s great as a pitcher and a hitter,” Licata said of Hayley Catania. “We played them two years ago when she was a sophomore and she was great back then, and she’s gotten even better over the years.”
St. Mary’s jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first. Felicia D’Alessandro and Marina DiBiasio hit back-to-back singles to put runners on first and third for Sullivan, who came through with an RBI single to make it 1-0. The Spartans threatened after that, but Hayley Catania worked out of the jam with two straight strikeouts.
Amesbury threatened with runners in scoring position in both the top of the second and top of the third innings, but Newhall worked out of both jams unscathed. Then, after Newhall forced an easy groundout to start the top of the fifth, Amesbury started to turn it on. It started when Emma DePietro knocked a huge triple into deep centerfield to get into scoring position. Hayley Catania then walked, but the ball-four pitch got by the catcher and DePietrio came in to score and tie the game. Two batters later, Emma Catania stepped in and knocked in the go-ahead run with an RBI single, making it 2-1 Amesbury.
St. Mary’s threatened again in the bottom of the fifth, getting the tying run as far as third base. But once again, Hayley Catania bore down and struck out the next two batters to escape with the lead.
Amesbury added two insurance runs in the top of the seventh, one on an RBI single from Hayley Catania and one on an RBI groundout from Hannaih Burdick, stretching its lead to 4-1.
The Spartans made a valiant attempt at a comeback in the bottom of the seventh, moving runners to first and third before scoring on a double steal. But in the end, St. Mary’s simply couldn’t get enough hits to keep the rally going.
While no one wants to leave the tournament at this stage, Licata noted that no one was crying after the game. That’s because the young Spartans don’t have a single senior and only two juniors on the roster, meaning that this team will likely be back for the next couple of years.
“The positive is that we started 0-3 this season and made it to the sectional semifinals, so I’m super proud of them,” said Licata. “I mean, we had a seventh grader playing first base, an eighth grader pitching, six freshmen, one sophomore and two juniors, so I told them they should get used to seeing this place. Take this loss, learn from it, use it as our fire and get back here next year.”
St. Mary’s closes out the season at 14-9.