St. Mary’s shakes slow start, defeats Pope John in tourney opener

The Spartans mob Taylor Sullivan after she hits a two-run shot in the bottom of the first. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — The No. 3 St. Mary’s softball team got its Division 3 North state tournament run started with a 10-5 win over No. 19 Pope John Saturday at Grace Rogato Field.

The Spartans got off to a slow start against Pope John, who they had beaten by 10-plus runs twice in the regular season, but an explosive offensive performance helped St. Mary’s settle down in time for the victory.

“I think every team, whether you played them in the regular season or not, when you see them in the tournament they look different,” St. Mary’s coach Paige Licata said. “Now it’s a little bit desperate and every team is fighting for their lives. (Pope John) definitely came to play and brought a good game to us.

“I think it was good for us to see the tone change from a regular season game to one game and you’re done,” Licata said. “I think that alone, it took us a minute to adjust to having to play our best at all times. You can’t let up. It was good to see us battle back after that first inning and get ourselves in gear.”

Taylor Sullivan (2-for-3 walk, four RBI, run) led the way with a two-run home run in the first inning. Talia Smaller (2-for-2 two HBP, RBI, three runs), Sam Porazinski (walk, sacrifice fly, RBI, run), Alyssa Grossi (2-for-4 one RBI) and Felicia D’Alessandro (3-for-4, RBI, run) all had key hits.

“I think all season long we have had the potential of having huge offensive games,” Licata said. “It’s happened often. I think you can tell when it starts it’s going to be a big game. Taylor is one of the biggest people that starts that. The momentum builds and it’s contagious. We have the ability one through nine to score a ton of runs. That’s something we have to utilize. It’s impressive to have nine hitters who can hit it deep.”

Pitcher Lily Newhall allowed five runs on seven hits with five strikeouts.

The Spartans got off to a rough start in the first inning. Pope John took advantage of a pair of errors and a walk, turning a one-hit inning into a quick 3-0 lead.

But the Spartans’ bats and answered back right away. Smaller got things started, plating Porazinski, who reach on a walk, with a double. Sullivan came up next and laced her two-run home run to tie the game at 3-3.

St. Mary’s piled it on in the second inning with five runs. Katie O’Neill was hit by a pitch and came around to score on an errant throw after a steal. A walk and singles from Christina Nowicki and D’Alessandro loaded the bases for Porazinski who drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Later on the same play and errant throw plated Nowicki. Sullivan came through again later in the inning with a two-run single to give the Spartans a 8-3 lead.

St. Mary’s added another run in the fourth. Smaller doubled and later scored on a single from D’Alessandro to stretch the lead to 9-3.

A pair of walks and a single loaded the bases for Pope John in the fifth inning. A single scored one run and a Spartans error brought home another, closing the gap to 9-5.

Nowicki singled in the fifth and D’Alessandro drove her in with a single to give the Spartans a 10-5 lead. That was more than enough room for Newhall, who ran into some trouble with the bases loaded in the seventh but struck out a batter and forced a ground out to close the win.

St. Mary’s will host No. 11 Matignon Monday (7) in the Division 3 North quarterfinal.

“Matignon is a good program and in our league so we’ve played them twice,” Licata said. “They had beat us at home once this year. I think it’s going to be fun to get to play them again. We have to bring our best stuff and be a lot more intense from the start.”

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