LOWELL, Mass. -- Central Catholic head coach Stacy Ciccolo insisted that there was no extra incentive for Raiders in the Division 1 North semifinals, but the celebration in the infield at the conclusion of the contest sure looked like the win meant a little bit more.
The Raiders (18-3) tripped up No. 1 seed Chelmsford (21-2), a team that handed the Raiders two losses during the regular season, with a 2-0 victory on Friday night at Martin Field. Central Catholic will now take on Acton-Boxborough in the sectional finals on Saturday.
“We talk about if somebody beats us nobody beats us the second time,” Ciccolo said when asked about the extra motivation for her team. “We want to show improvement and not allow that to happen, so only in those terms, not specifically against Chelmsford. It’s great to see two MVC teams in the semifinals, but we talked about the fact that they were able to get us a couple times earlier and we didn’t want that to happen.”
The game looked like neither team would be getting to each other with the way both pitchers were buzzing their way through the lineups. It took only a little over an hour for the Raiders Meg Donegan and the Lions’ Meghan Rich to establish their dominance on the mound.
But in the top of the seventh, Brianna Martin was finally able to break through. Leslie Moore started with a pinch-hit single with one out in the seventh inning. Moore was forced out at second when Nicole Howe rolled one to short.
However, it was clear that the Raiders were finally able to string a couple of good at-bats together.
“At that point I kind of wanted to mix things up and get somebody to get a new look,” said Ciccolo.
Alex Borrelli sent a grounder up the middle that just got under the glove of the shortstop to set up first and second with two down in the inning. Martin wasted little time in her at-bat, as she rocketed a Rich offering down the left field line and the ball skirted away from the fielder. Howe scored without a doubt from second and Borrelli put on the jets to score a little insurance from first base.
“It was such a nice shot down the line and tough for the left fielder to play,” Ciccolo said. “When we knew we had a shot we were definitely going to go with the second one even if we knew it would be close.”
Donegan gave up a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh, but she got out of the jam when she got Allison Couch to fly to left field.
There wasn’t much going on against Donegan for most of the night.
The right-handed pitcher struck out nine and only surrendered three hits in her seven innings of shutout work. She mowed down five hitters in a row at one point by way of the strikeout and when she did give up a single in the fourth, her defense helped her out with a double play to get out of the inning.
“I was just working my corners and trying to get them off-balanced,” Donegan said.