Elizabeth Bourne pitched seven strong innings and drove in three runs to lead Nichols to its second consecutive Monsignor Martin Association softball championship Thursday in a 10-4 win against St. Mary’s at West Seneca’s Sunshine Park.
Nichols started fast with three runs in the first inning and hardly looked back, scoring in five of the six innings it batted while cranking out 14 hits.
“We definitely brought the bats today,” Bourne said. “We had to against this team. We only won by one run last time so we knew it was going to be a tough game.”
From coach Holly Kemp’s perspective, the hot start was the key.
“Some games we’ve struggled getting our bats going, into the third, fourth, fifth” inning, she said. “It was just nice to come out early and set the tone.”
Bourne drove in Nicolette Tomani in the bottom of the first and scored when Lizzy Viola crushed a two-run homer over the left-field fence.
“She’s the co-Monsignor Martin Player of the Year and she played every bit of that today,” Kemp said of her catcher, Viola, who was 2 for 4 and scored twice.
St. Mary’s struggled to get anything going offensively until the fourth inning when Jakki Steck, Brianna Poules and Victoria Rozler, running for pitcher Katarina Raab, scored to cut the deficit to 6-3.
But Nichols didn’t let any momentum get away, answering back with two runs in the bottom of the fourth when Bourne homered, scoring Olivia Zafuto.
Bourne kept St. Mary’s hitters at bay the rest of the way, allowing only one more run in the seventh. The junior pitcher finished with five strikeouts and gave up seven hits while showing confidence in her changeup, which kept hitters off balance all afternoon.
“She has been an absolute workhorse for us all year,” Kemp said. “She’s pitched every game we’ve had except for one in a tournament. She’s just awesome. She worked really hard on her different pitches this year and has her changeup and drop-curve and lots of other things working.”
For St. Mary’s, the upshot is that only three players graduate and seven starters return next season.
“I think it’s a good step for us,” Lancers coach Dave Delak said. “I got a lot of young kids on the team, a lot of young players coming back next year. It’s a building block for us.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” he added. “I totally enjoyed the ride.”
Steck and Poules had two hits each for St. Mary’s. Bourne went 3 for 4 and Maddi Welch drove in two runs for Nichols, which had its sights set on repeating as champions since Day One.
“In 2012, we made the finals for the first time ever and we lost. Last year we made it back to the finals and got our championship, and we knew this year that was a goal again, and a very accomplishable goal,” Kemp said. “From the first game of the season we never looked back. We went undefeated in league play and then through the tournament.”
Nichols can add to its illustrious season on Tuesday when it travels to Staten Island for the state semifinals. The championship is later Tuesday evening.