The Amesbury Indians were chipping away at St. Mary’s early lead but coach Colleen Newbury had her closer warming up in the bullpen.
And Mia Nowicki, the freshman phenom who has averaged close to two strikeouts per inning this season, did her job efficiently.
Nowicki struck out seven in 3 2/3 innings to lock up St. Mary’s 8-5 victory over Amesbury in the Division 3 North final Sunday at Martin Field in Lowell.
Michaela Hamill was the St. Mary’s starter and Jordan D’Orsi came on in middle relief but when Amesbury loaded the bases in the fourth, Newbury decided it was Mia Time.
The hard-throwing right-hander began inauspiciously with a walk and a hit batsman, but struck out the next four batters in a row. Amesbury loaded the bases and notched a run in the seventh, but Nowicki retired Amesbury’s leadoff batter Amanda Schell on a groundout to senior second baseman Jennie Mucciarone.
Nowicki credited her teammates for keeping her calm on the mound.
“My teammates calm me down during the nervous times and they’re really supportive and I’m glad to be part of this team,” said Nowicki.
What were Nowicki’s thoughts as Amesbury threatened to overtake St. Mary’s in its final at-bat?
“I was just thinking that I want to win this game for the seniors, my team, and my coaches and I really want to move on and win the States,” said Nowicki.
One of those senior leaders, Alexandria Fisher delivered a key two-run single in the Spartans’ seven-run second inning. Molly Doyle, Mollie Mello, Alexis Mango, and Tatiana Doucette (double) all had hits while Jessica Martinello and Cassandra LaFauci reached on errors.
After Amesbury scored four runs in the middle innings, LaFauci and Mango added doubles in the sixth to extend the lead to 8-4.
Fisher and fellow captains Doucette, Mucciarone, and Mango is trying to close out her career with a trip to Worcester for the state final.
“It was a great team win,” said Fisher. “Even though they started to come back, we played all the way through. It was good to get the runners on base so I could drive them in. And I have a lot of faith in Mia.”
Newbury said Nowicki has pitched well and battled through some tough stretches.
“Based on the composure she has – and I know she’s only in ninth grade – she battled enough to stay in and get the outs she needed,” said Newbury. “Nothing is easy in the tournament. Once you get past your first round or so, it’s really not easy and it shouldn’t be. That’s what the State Tournament’s about.”
North Sectional No. 8 seed St. Mary’s (17-7) defeated Boston Latin Academy (7-0), Greater Lowell (10-1), and Whitter (6-2) to reach the final. No. 6 seed Amesbury (17-7) had defeated Weston (17-1), Notre Dame of Tynsgbori (11-2) and Lowell Catholic (3-2) to reach the top of its bracket.
St. Mary’s was set to meet South sectional champion Greater New Bedford in the state semifinals Wednesday night. The winner of that game will play the winner of the Assabet Valley-Turners Falls game for the state championship Saturday at Worcester State College.