The St. Mary’s High School softball team was on a big-time roll, with all aspects of its game jelling at the optimum time and at the level reserved for state champions.
Beginning with an impressive win over a strong Classical team in the John Holland Tournament, continuing through a string of victories in the North sectionals, and following with a thrilling Tatiana Doucette-led win over Case, the Spartans looked primed to bring home another state softball title.
Saturday’s Division 3 state championship game shaped up as the exclamation point to a superb campaign for one of the best girls’ athletics programs in the state and the opportunity for hockey greats Alison Butler and Kaileigh Finigan and senior stars Brooke L’Abbe, Victoria Viger, and company to go out with another ring and coach Colleen Newbury to add another notch to her legendary playing and coaching career.
But a determined team from Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, a vocational school located in Marlborough, denied the Spartans players and coaches the perfect finale, upsetting St. Mary’s, 5-2, at Rockwood Field on the campus of Worcester State College.
Assabet Valley (21-4) made some outstanding defensive plays in the field behind pitcher Madison Parmeter, who to her credit, held the potent Spartans – who had averaged seven runs a game in the tournament – to two runs and four hits.
The Aztecs proved to be an opportunistic group, scoring four runs in the third inning to take a 5-1 lead. After Assabet scored the go-ahead run, shortstop Molly Doyle and second baseman Victoria Viger made nice plays on grounders for bases-loaded force-out throws to catcher Tatiana Doucette at the plate. But a bases-loaded walk, and an infield miscue brought three more runs home.
Cassandra LaFauci had a leadoff double in the seventh inning that led to a run, but Parmeter retired the next three hitters to wrap up Assabet Valley’s first softball state title. The school in its 42-year history has also won Central Massachusetts Super Bowls, which many equate with state titles.
“As a goal, we felt we had to hold them to two runs and we would have a real good chance of winning,” said Assabet Valley coach Mike O’Brien. “That big inning just gave us more confidence. We put up those runs and we capitalized and that’s how we’ve won all year – pitching and defense and capitalizing on some hitting.”
O’Brien lauded the recent history and winning tradition of St. Mary’s program.
“We were playing a very good St. Mary’s team. They beat a lot of teams in their districts and then a real good Case team. I know they had won two state titles. I know that Ed Henry was a coach that won seven titles in a row and she [Colleen Newbury] was a player for him for four years. So I knew right away that St. Mary’s was a well-coached team and we’re going to have to play our ‘A’ game to beat them.”
O’Brien said he was also familiar with St. Mary’s three-tier pitching formation of Brooke L’Abbe, Jordan D’Orsi, and eighth grade phenom Mia Nowicki, who were superb during the post-season run. Nowicki struck out five batters in two innings on Saturday.
Colleen Newbury said her team had “a great season.”
“Obviously we’re not disappointed at all – we got to the game that we wanted to get to. We just didn’t win it, unfortunately.”
Newbury said she’ll miss the seniors for their leadership and spirit. “They’re all great kids and great teammates.”
Asked whether she will return as coach next season, Newbury replied, “We’ll see about that. We’ll see what happens next year.”