Murdock softball coach Daniel Tenney paid the St. Mary’s softball team the highest compliments after Saturday’s Division 3 state championship game.
“St. Mary’s is absolutely the best team we played all season,” said Tenney. “They’re a state champion, not only in title, but they’re that good. They’re a fantastic team – well coached, bunting, hitting, fielding, pitching – they had it all.”
Everyone including the large contingent of St. Mary’s fans at Rockwood Field on the campus of Worcester State College would agree with that assessment.
The St. Mary’s High School softball team had an all-around performance emblematic of being one of the best teams in Massachusetts, defeating the Murdock Blue Devils, 11-3, to capture the program’s second state title in a row.
St. Mary’s coach Colleen Newbury, who had her team ready after a tense 5-4 win over Case in the semifinals, couldn’t have diagrammed a better finale on the chalkboard.
If you wanted to see clutch hitting: Maria Nazzaro (2-for-4) started the game with a double and all of her teammates had an entry in the basehit column against Murdock’s fine pitcher, Brittney Howe, who had struck out 13 batters in a 5-0 win over Turners Falls in the state semifinals.
Erin McAndrews (three hits, two RBI, two runs scored), Brittany Hanscom (three hits, one sacrifice bunt, two runs scored), Kristina Burri (three hits, one RBI one run scored), and Brianna Holmes (three hits, one RBI, one run scored) kept the heat on Murdock by hitting the ball hard to all fields.
If you wanted to see stellar defense: Third baseman Brianna Holmes smoothly fielded a trap-hop chopper to start a sparkling 5-3-6-4 double play in the first inning. Kristina Burri (Is there a better second baseman in the state?) had her defensive imprint on the game again. First baseman Angela Dandreo had six putouts and one assist while catcher Katie Collins was her usual quiet and efficient self behind the plate.
And finally, if you like good pitching: senior right-hander Samantha Kiley saved her best for last, hurling a four-hitter with four strikeouts. Kiley kept the ball in the strike zone and is now 2-0 in state championship games. She may have walked a tightrope in wins over Austin Prep and Case, but with a second title in her sights, she was poised and confident on the hill.
Colleen Newbury and her coaching staff of Don Harp, Emily Day, Frank Sarro, Erica Sonia, and Jim McHugh saw their team play some of its best softball when it mattered most: when it’s win or go home time. Newbury was especially pleased with her team’s superlative effort against Murdock.
“This game definitely showed how good we were,” said Newbury. “A lot of people were impressed with our offense and our defense. We played really well in this game. The kids weren’t really nervous. They played their game.”
And when they play their game, there are few teams in Massachusetts that can match their level of excellence. Just as the opposing coach told a group of reporters after Saturday game: the Lady Spartans deserve to be a state champion – and they should relish all the memories that are theirs forever with high school sports’ number one team achievement.