Nowicki’s home run sends Spartans to sectional final

Christina Nowicki scored the winning run on an inside-the-park home run Friday (Photo by Joe Brown)

LOWELL — An inside-the-park solo home run from Christina Nowicki was the difference as the No. 3 St. Mary’s softball team took down No. 2 Amesbury, 3-2, in the Division 3 North semifinal at James S. Martin Field Friday afternoon. Nowicki smacked a line drive all the way to the right-field fence in the top of the seventh inning and raced around the bases for the eventual game-winning run.

“Christina has been hitting well all season, and she’s really able to do it all whether it’s with her speed or with her power,” said St. Mary’s coach Paige Licata. “So I think the defense not really knowing how to play her played a part in why the outfield was playing a little in, which allowed her to hit it to the fence and use her speed to get the winning run for us.”

Alyssa Grossi (2-for-3) also had one RBI, while Marina DiBiasio (2-for-3), Talia Smaller (1-for-3) and Taylor Sullivan (1-for-3) also had hits.

In the circle, Lily Newhall battled through some tough innings to earn the win. Newhall pitched seven innings and allowed two runs on eight hits with three strikeouts. She also pitched her way out of a number of jams, including a bases loaded situation in the bottom of the fifth.

“She’s just a freshman, and it was great to see her keep her composure like that,” Licata said of Newhall. “We got her into some trouble at times, but she was pitching against a good hitting team with a lot of upperclassmen. To see her bare down and really pitch well was awesome.”

It was Amesbury that struck first in this one, quickly moving runners to first and third with no outs in the bottom of the first inning. Although the Spartans turned a double play on the next batter to grab two quick outs, Amesbury still plated one run when Julia Campbell knocked a RBI single up the middle to make it 1-0.

The score remained there until the top of the third. Jordan Sullivan walked and stole second base to get into scoring position for the Spartans, then Nowicki dropped down a bunt to try to move Sullivan over. But the throw from the Amesbury third baseman sailed into right field, which allowed Sullivan to come all the way around to tie the game at 1-1.

The very next inning, Grossi came through with a RBI single for the Spartans to put St. Mary’s ahead 2-1.

Amesbury came right back in the bottom of the fifth, quickly moving a runner to third base with just one out. The next play was a grounder right back to Newhall in the circle, but a slight hesitation caused the runner to be safe at home to tie the game at 2-2. The Indians loaded the bases shortly after that, but Newhall kept her composure and worked out of the inning with the score still tied.

That set up the opportunity for Nowicki in the top of the seventh, and she didn’t disappoint. With two outs and the bases empty, she laced a pitch over the rightfielder’s head and raced around the bases for the eventual game-winning run.

Amesbury moved the tying run into scoring position in the bottom of the seventh, but Newhall notched a big strikeout to end the game and send St. Mary’s to the next round.

The Spartans (19-4) are now off to the Division 3 North final, which will be played Saturday morning (10) against No. 1 Austin Prep (21-2) back at Martin Field.

“It’s going to be a tough game, that’s for sure,” said Licata. “Knowing Austin Prep so well, there’s only so much we can prepare for at this point. So we’ll just be ready to go on Saturday and we’ll try to bring our best game to the field.”

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