Nardin needed only one run to win the Monsignor Martin softball championship. But it took 10 innings for the Gators to get it.
Freshman Grace Applebaum scored on a passed ball in the top of the third extra inning and Jessie DiPasquale pitched a complete game shutout to lead Nardin in a 1-0 victory over defending champion St. Mary’s of Lancaster on Tuesday at Canisius College’s Demske Field.
DiPasquale, a junior who has verbally committed to the University of Massachusetts and earned All-Catholic Pitcher of the Year honors this season, struck out nine batters and got out of several jams to win the pitching duel with St. Mary’s senior Mackenzie Suto (11 strikeouts), who is headed to Hofstra University in the fall.
“Suto came with her best pitches and DiPasquale did the exact same thing,” Nardin coach Christina Waring said. “Both players are phenomenal. It makes it very difficult to have an offensive game when you have fantastic pitching like that.”
Both teams put baserunners in scoring position several times during the game but could not push one across the plate.
It was a defensive battle as much as a pitching one. Neither team committed a fielding error and several runs were saved by outstanding efforts in the early innings. Nardin catcher Alyssa Coons, the All-Catholic Player of the Year, caught two base stealers. St. Mary’s left fielder Sarah Hopeman ran down a foul ball to end the sixth inning when the Gators had runners on second and third. DiPasquale made a slick double play in the ninth, catching a popped up bunt and throwing to first to pick off a second out.
After nine scoreless innings, Applebaum started the 10th on second base, by rule. Pinc- hitter Bridgetta Ulrich laid down a sacrifice bunt to get Applebaum over to third and the freshman took advantage of one of the game’s only mistakes to race home for the winning run.
“I was really nervous,” Applebaum said. “I was scared I was going to mess up. But you just have to focus and make it all the way around.”
Once Applebaum scored, DiPasquale felt confident the Gators were going to win their second league title in three years.
“All these things happen for a reason, all these amazing plays,” DiPasquale said. “The favor was on our side, so I knew going into the bottom of the 10th that it was our game to win.”
Nardin will travel to New York City next week to play in the Catholic state semifinals.
“From the first day of tryouts, we said we were going to states,” DiPasquale said. “That was our goal and our mindset and we all did it for one another. That is something that really meant a lot to all of us, that we are going to states together.”